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Date: Fri, 30 May 2003 10:30:50 -0700
From: maa32 
Subject: (urth) latro's manumission

Crush asked me to post this on Wednesday (sorry for the delay, everyone)
Marc Aramini
>As Wolfe says in his interview:
>"Then they held a ceremony which I described in detail, exactly as it was
>and they gave each Helot who was to be awarded his freedom as a climax of
>the ceremony a young Spartan as his companion to lead him through the
>ceremony. And at a given signal each companion killed that Helot that he was
>responsible for. And they were all killed except Latros who they did not
>intend to kill because he was not really a Helot. And he survived and all of
>the rest of them who had gone in the ceremony were butchered.  And they
>really were, this took place."
>The identification of Latro's manumission with the event described by
>Thucydides (4:80) has always bothered me. Wolfe says the ceremony occurred
>exactly as he described. But this is what Thucydides says:
>"In fact [the Spartans] were so frightened of [the helots] unyielding
>character and of their numbers that they had had recourse to the following
>plan. (Spartan policy with regard to the helots had always been based almost
>entirely on the idea of security.) They made a proclamation to the effect
>that the helots should choose out of their own number those who claimed to
>have done the best service to Sparta on the battlefield, implying that they
>would be given their freedom. This was, however, a test conducted in the
>belief that the ones who showed most spirit and came forward first to claim
>their freedom would be the ones most likely to turn against Sparta. So about
>2,000 were selected, who put garlands on their heads and went round the
>temples under the impression that they were being made free men. Soon
>afterwards, however, the Spartans did away with them, and no one ever knew
>exactly how each one of them was killed." (translation by Rex Warner)
>First of all, Thucydides tells this tale without saying when it happened and
>under what circumstances. He is merely using it to emphasize that the
>Spartans were glad to send a lot of the helots to war in Thessaly to get
>them out of Sparta during the Peloponesian War. Also, this story is
>significant because the Spartan commander Brasidas is about to make the same
>offer to the helots, which he will this time fulfill. But while the story
>probably rings true to Spartan's attitude and sense of honor toward the
>helots, the story smells like an urban legend. After all, the Spartan's
>essentially declared war on the helots every year as it was -- with an
>emphasis on eliminating any helot that was outstanding in anyway. Would such
>a public elimination be necessary? This is beside the point of course except
>that there is no evidence that this murder occurred in connection to the
>Persian war -- but none that it didn't.
>Second, the event described by Thucydides did not occur "just as Wolfe
>described it". Other than the garlands, there are no real "details" of the
>murders except that they seem to have occurred some time after the ceremony
>and they seem to have occurred surreptitiously, not in one go. There is no
>mention of Spartans paired with each helot (each Spartan had seven helots
>after all -- so how could there have been enough to pair off?).
>So, has Wolfe drawn from a different source here? or a second source?
>Perhaps one that Thucydides himself drew from?
>-- Crush


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