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25 June 2013


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Thank you for your spirited reply. First, I’d like to point out where we are in agreement, namely concerning me. I’d gotten used to thinking of myself as a flea around here, but if you’d like to promote me to tick, I’m flattered.

Then there’s the question of whether I get my information about Sparta from the movie 300. I think this is unlikely. The reason I think so is that when the movie was released, some of the folks who were promoting it hired me to assess its historical validity (a fairly short assignment). The reason for that was probably because I spent four years as a grad student studying Greece and Rome at one of the best universities for that sort of thing in the world. I have also advised on more than a few “historical” movies like this.

Unfortunately, this puts me at a disadvantage with you, since I must argue with some knowledge of the historical record, while you have the freedom to make up any Sparta you like to fit your arguments (you are very kind to notice that I have no ideas of my own and remedy the situation by making up arguments for me as well). You can call Sparta a despotism, whereas I have to contend with the fact that it was apparently a dual monarchy with two relatively weak kings, who had a strangely undespotly habit of running away from their jobs.

Anyway, I don't want to go on boring everyone with this, so as a tick, I’m going to pull rank and insist that we end this discussion.

I will, however, leave you with a parting gift: a real explanation of what the Spartan example teaches us about our armed forces. It begins with the nature of hoplite warfare. Imagine you’re standing in the front ranks of an Argive phalanx facing down the Spartans. Your left foot is forward, your right foot back. Your shield is in your left hand. You might notice in this position that you’re not actually protecting yourself very well. In fact, your shield is largely protecting the space to your right. That’s where your neighbor Bob is standing. So you’re protecting him, not you. Your friend Phil to your left is in charge of protecting you.

The battle opens. Your enemy’s auxiliaries come forward and throw all manner of projectiles at you. Now, you notice that Phil is being a bit lazy with his shield and some of the arrows, stones, and whatnot are getting really close. So you instinctively turn slightly so that your shield is protecting you better and Bob not so much. Bob notices this, and he does the same. Soon, the entire phalanx rotates and loses its integrity. The Spartans see the disorder and charge (they could run at full tilt in formation) and you find yourself either dead or one of their many many slaves.

So what’s the answer to this? Well, imagine if you’re a Spartan. Instead of Bob standing to your right, you have a beautiful young man whom you love more than life itself. Now it doesn’t matter if the guy to your left protects you or not, you’re going to keep your shield where it should be, covering his ass, so to speak. It gets better. You are also the young man’s mentor, as well as his only comfort and friend during months of hard and dangerous campaigning. He knows you’re going to protect him, and does not want to disappoint you in doing his duty. So he, spurred on by your good example and instructive words, keeps his shield exactly where it should be. Thus, by alternating pairs of homosexual lovers, you build an unbreakable phalanx. So argued Plato, anyway.

It’s worth noting that the only two Greek cities to gain hegemony over the whole were Sparta and Thebes. Both were reported to have had institutionalized homosexuality of this sort, Sparta generally and Thebes with the Sacred Band. There have been challenges made to this notion, of course. The Athenian playwright Aristophanes famously depicted the Spartans as raging heterosexuals, and a contemporary historian has argued with some interesting evidence that the Sacred Band did not exist. But by and large, the logic is sound, if the actual practice murky. After all, this stuff happened a long time ago.

What does this tell us about gays in our armed forces? I haven’t served in the military, but I get the impression that hoplite warfare went out of fashion some time ago. Therefore I don’t see how the argument above applies. Instead, I think the answer is what Pat Lang and others have repeatedly argued. An army is a fighting force, and it should be regulated for maximum effectiveness at doing exactly that. Whereas in Greece there was a logic to having lovers in the ranks due to the nature of the combat, no such logic obtains in a modern context. We are including gays and women in front-line combat troops for cultural reasons, not strictly military ones. Making decisions on such a basis sets a bad precedent.

I thank you again, Tyler, for taking the time to engage me in this interesting discussion.


You are anything but boring. What happened to the fellow on the extreme left end of the line?


That's a lot of words that add up to a whole lot of nothing. Dissertations on what Sparta was routinely contradict each other and I find it amazing that you claim to have the literal truth about Sparta when historians still argue about it. The first loyalty of a Spartan was to the STATE, your smokescreen about 'two weak kings' aside. Pretending you have the actual truth about a very murky issue means you're drawing from the same source I am.

Its funny you mention Thebes, considering the Spartans with their stale tactics got crushed by the Thebans at the Battle of Leuctra. The Greeks also practiced slavery, pederastry, pedophilia, and a host of other unsavory behaviors.


Thank you. I hope it's clear I've greatly simplified what is in reality a very complicated and opaque subject to shed light on a particular topic. Homosexuality in armies was a common intellectual trope in the ancient world. Plato made much of it, and so it has come down to us. For what it's worth, I'm addressing ancient theories of love more than military reality, because it's from discussions of love not so much discussions of war that we hear about Spartan homosexuality.

As for actual military tactics, we tend to think of Greece as a point in time, but it's really many hundreds of years spanning hundreds of different city states. So every army did things differently and the same armies did them differently over time. Like all military formations, the phalanx had vulnerabilities. Some guys in formation were simply more likely to be killed than others. Some formations did not operate like the idealized one I described above. But the basic principle was that you were often reliant on the guy next to you for protection and that gave rise to a lot of intellectual discussion on mixing love with war.

The Twisted Genius


Well played, sir. Well played. And you are absolutely correct when you say that "an army is a fighting force, and it should be regulated for maximum effectiveness at doing exactly that." It will reflect the society it serves, but it will never be an exact image of that society. We can all thank the stars for the difference.


I believe they got slaughtered by the Romans legionaries along with the rest of the phalanx at Chaeronea.


"We are including gays and women in front-line combat troops for cultural reasons, not strictly military ones. Making decisions on such a basis sets a bad precedent."

Indeed. The liberals see a way to rally the base, which doesn't need rallying. Their opponents, lord knows what they are going to do. More than one nation has lost a war by ruining the quality of their military forces for very short-term domestic political reasons.


Shepherd got it right: "In appealing to us, Elkern is asking a question not making an argumentum ad populum.

I know that the only vote that counts here belongs to our host.

TTG started this thread with the comment that he had "noticed a few more rudely argumentative conversations on SST lately. [...] we can easily forget that we are, in effect, sitting in Colonel Lang's living room when we do this. Being rude or smart assed to the host or other guests should be seen as an unthinkable breach of etiquette and a smear on our personal honor"

Tyler, your comments to me - and to others - have been consistently rude. No one else here attacks other posters on a regular basis. Am I the only one here who has noticed this? Obviously not - Shepherd, at least, has noticed this too (thanks).

I appealed to the "community" because etiquette is a social construct - different people may have a different idea about where to draw the line. Perhaps I'm violating someone's idea of propriety by accusing one poster in particular; if so, I hope you/they would note that I was responding to a specific post Tyler where Tyler had claimed that "there is a time for the eye gouge and the cheap shot", then ignored Fred's gentle suggestion that this is the place for neither. Tyler's response to that was to rail about "lefty sophists" deserving the "hammer and tongs treatment".

I think he didn't get the point of TTG's post, and still doesn't. Is everyone else afraid of him? Amused by his crudeness? Glad that he says the things they're too polite to say? Are his insults really justified?

Col. Lang - please contact me privately. If I am attacking a personal freind of yours, I appologize & will desist.


TTG asked us to 'strive to live by those words' he quoted . Here's another that is a quote from JPJ, from wikiquote:

"Where men of fine feeling are concerned there is seldom misunderstanding.
Letter from Jones to the Marquis de Lafayette. May 1, 1779."

I do not always agree with his ideas or tone but think I understand where Tyler is coming from.

Some of my earliest comments half a decade or so ago on this blog (yes, its been along time and a great education) left a great deal to be desired. I deeply appreciate our host's consideration in my remaining here. If you feel something is amiss, well we are not fish and we need not rise to the bait; though I think very very few intentionally do that and most don't stay around long.


Yet amazingly, I was able to disagree with Fred and Alba Etie and there were no confrontations. Even Optimax, that old rum, could 'tweak' me and I knew where he was coming from.

The reason I told you earlier to put your language back in your purse was because you're focusing on the tone and not the substance. You speak of rudeness? The constant sophistry and refusal to admit to the facts is a slap in the face to any decorum around here becausee at that point you're simply arguing for the sake of arguing.

Look at what we talk about, and the heady issues of the day being debated, and maybe you'll realize that this is a time to get fired up about something and take a stand instead of passively waving your hands around. The world is on fire, and you're upset because of the color of my jacket in your Orthodox Tea Room.

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

I got the point of TTG's post, thanks, but I disagree with it. I can do that. Your passive aggressive way of arguing and playing the victim here, as a grown ass man, is more problematic than me railing against the disingeneous 'points' of you and yours.



My best advice is the same as Fred's--don't bite.

Too many years on the railroad thickened my skin and--Tyler is right--I do take a certain sadistic pleasure in tweaking him. You both contribute valuable ideas to this blog so I hope you both stick around. Anyway, it's too late to get Tyler into Charm School.

I'll be gone for a week or so--camping and visiting friends.


Taking this back to where TTG started it off I would just like to point to a man who to me has always defined the phrase "officer and gentleman".

James Earl Carter, Jr., ex President, ex nuclear submarine commander, and Annapolis grad always demonstrated gracious behavior in difficult and easy circumstances alike. Please leave politics aside and let's agree on the man himself. He was and still is an officer and gentleman and a credit to his Naval background.

We should all strive to emulate his decorum and ability to argue without rancor.

Thanks TTG.



Taking this back to where TTG started it off I would like to point to a Naval officer who to me always personified the phrase "an officer and a gentleman" at least in his public demeanor.

James Earl Carter, Jr., ex President of the US, ex commander of a nuclear submarine, and Annapolis grad always exhibited to the public grace and diplomacy under difficult and easy circumstances alike.

Lets leave politics aside and agree on the man. He was always gentlemanly and rational and able to argue for his cause without personal rancor.

We should always strive to emulate that aspect on the man.

Thanks TTG.



I never said I had the literal truth about anything, much less the ancient world. Surely you understand that there is a difference between knowing exactly what was going on at Sparta and nailing down a few things that almost certainly weren't going on. For example, we know it wasn’t ruled by Egyptians. While you’re right that Sparta probably wasn’t a pleasant place, it just wasn't unpleasant in many of the ways you think it was.

Minor point. If you think the Spartan problem at Leuctra was that their tactics were stale, you dishonor the Theban general Epimanondas, who was easily one of the greatest men who ever lived (not least because he freed the Spartan helots). During the battle, Epimanondas exploited the situation I've described above brilliantly. It was his tactical innovations, never before seen, that won the day. We do him and ourselves a big disservice by not studying him more.


You're moving the goalposts now, going from your initial assertion that I 'made things up' to 'oh well yeah it wasn't nice but IT WAS NICER THAN YOU THINK'. Can I get some ideological stability please.

I know Epimanondas' tactics were the big reason that he crushed the Spartans, which allowed him to exploit the stale tactics that the Spartans were wedded to. I figured that went without saying. Oh well.

Peter Brownlee

It's Epaminondas or Epameinondas (Ἐπαμεινώνδας) -- picky, perhaps, but bold, misspelt assertions of authority are less than convincing.

Cornelius Nepos's life of E. might repay study, especially in the light of this thread:

"1. Epaminondas, Polymnii filius, Thebanus. de hoc priusquam scribimus, haec praecipienda videntur lectoribus, ne alienos mores ad suos referant, neve ea, quae ipsis leviora sunt, pari modo apud ceteros fuisse arbitrentur. [2] scimus enim musicen nostris moribus abesse a principis persona, saltare vero etiam in vitiis poni: quae omnia apud Graecos et grata et laude digna ducuntur. [3] cum autem exprimere imaginem consuetudinis atque vitae velimus Epaminondae, nihil videmur debere praetermittere, quod pertineat ad eam declarandam. [4] quare dicemus primum de genere eius, deinde quibus disciplinis et a quibus sit eruditus, tum de moribus ingeniique facultatibus et si qua alia memoria digna erunt, postremo de rebus gestis, quae a plurimis animi anteponuntur virtutibus" and so on.


(They say "musicen" in 2 but I think it should be "musicam" and it could be OCR problems.)

"I. EPAMINONDAS was the son of Polymnis, and was born at Thebes. Before we proceed to write of him, the following caution seems necessary to be given to our readers; that they should not confound the customs of other nations with their own, or think that those things which appear unimportant to themselves must be equally so to others. We know that skill in music, according to our habits, is foreign to the character of any eminent personage; and that to dance is accounted disparaging to the character; while all such accomplishments among the Greeks are regarded both as pleasing and as worthy of admiration.

"But as we wish to draw a correct picture of the habits and life of Epaminondas, we seem called upon to omit nothing that may tend to illustrate it. We shall therefore speak in the first place of his birth; we shall then show in what accomplishments, and by whom, he was instructed; next we shall touch upon his manners and intellectual endowments, and whatever other points in his character may deserve notice; and lastly on his great actions, which are more regarded by many than all the best qualities of the mind."


Alba Etie

Yes we can agree to disagree without being disagreeable ( I think I got that quote close to right ) . But here is the sticky part of this discussion - I find sometimes your attacks can be overly personal .Mind you I say this with clear knowledge that me & Jonst got stuck in 'spat' here. So my advice to you is the same that I also need to adhere to as well- that is refrain from personal attacks on other community members here. It is a lively discussion here at SST ,and I learn alot being here. BTW do you have a valid citation for homosexual man making up fifty percent of the pedophiles in jail ? My wife was friends with one the two lesbian couple we are very close to before we are were married , and both of these couples are deeply committed to their respective partners.


Don't you think that rather than being a passionate advocate, you should strive to be an effective one? You're a smart guy and no one doubts your passion, but personally, I think you'd do your side a favor by putting more energy into honing your arguments and less into insulting your adversaries. Proving people are stupid is not the same thing as proving your point.


You don't get it, do you?

90 percent of the people I argue with on here are wedded to their sacred cows of equality, post modernism, and general cultural marxist bullshit that I'm not going to knock the scales from their eyes. They'll sit back in their little whitopias and be smug in their sense of self-righteousness over 'those dumb rednecks'. Even after I get done butchering those sacred cows with facts, they're still living in delusion.

I'm pointing out the flaws and the hypocrisy of the other side's "argument", the self destructive ignorance of ignoring inconvenient facts and how its ripping Western Civilization apart. Mockery and visceral disgust are simply gilt on the blade I'm using to shred their arguments.

Proving people are stupid isn't the same as proving my point? How do you come up with that bit of nonsense? If a person is arguing that we should go into Syria to overthrow Assad and support the "freedom fighters" there - that's stupid. Pointing out how they're wrong and stupid is the exact same thing.

These are the same people dedicated to tearing down the family, Mother Church, responsible government, the military - all pillars of Western Civ. In its place they want to raise an insane egalitarian false god, supported by the State, in order to place themselves on the top of the pyramid they've decided is the best way for the rest of us to live.

I'm not arguing to convince THOSE types - they've got a vested interest in ignoring reality, and I'd have to physically rub their face in their lies. I'm arguing to convince the bystanders who've been told by the Leftists and their enablers in government and media their entire lives that the family, the military, Mother Church, responsible government are evil and that all southern whites are evil racists and all blacks are innocent victims. I'm arguing to point out the inherent selfishness, hypocrisy and insanity of the other side, who don't care who dies on the march to their greater utopia.

That's who I'm arguing to win over, and Harvard Debate Club rules might be preferable if you're a sophist trying to muddle the point of my uncomfortable facts. The average person though, they know what's bullshit and what's fact, and they can understand where I'm coming from.

"Honing my arguments". Please. Physician, heal thyself. Go find somewhere to faint if it bothers you that much, or find the self control to not respond to me, but stop wasting my time with this concern trolling BS.


Thank you, shepherd. This was a real pleasure to read.


Mi Hermano, Calmate, Calmate, Tranquilo por favor.....

Your sounding like a rabid dog yelling from the mountain. Better it is us than someone else. Take a day off and sit back and think. We may be wayward but sometimes a little bit of the "Nicer Sense of Personal Honor" you have may help in the persuasion.

We understand your point and value. I will not reply to your comment.


Yes yes pedantic Polly, we're all very impressed by your cut and paste job. Here's your gold star.


"You sound like a rabid dog," said the sheep.

We'll just have to pity each other from afar I guess.


Excuse me, I misspoke - it was a third.


Very long, but very well researched, especially because it takes the time to debunk the spurious handwaving of homosexual advocates that homosexual child molestation 'doesn't count' as a homosexual act (no really) and the disproven Kinsey Sex Study.


I'm growing to like you a lot. I haven't been called a tick, punk, and (most insulting of all) philosopher in quite a long time.

To be honest, you make some good points (not least that I should stop replying to you). I came from a relatively poor, rural background, and I got through school largely on academic scholarships and construction work. And yes, I was lectured continually at that time by the minority children of millionaires about all of the privileges I had as a white male. So it's not like I don't get where you're coming from. I'm more moderate in my views than you, of course, but we probably have very different personalities and life experiences.

That said, we'll have to agree to disagree on the effectiveness of your tactics. So thanks for your time, and I wish you well.

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