Monday, September 18, 2017


Either This or Upon This

Plutarch, Moralia 241 F (Sayings of Spartan Women; tr. Frank Cole Babbitt with his note):
Another, as she handed her son his shield, exhorted him, saying, "Either this or upon this."b

b Referred to Gorgo as the author by Aristotle in his Aphorisms, as quoted by Stobaeus, Florilegium, vii.31, but it is often spoken of as a regular Spartan custom. Cf., for example, the scholium on Thucydides, ii.39.

Ancient writers were not agreed whether the second half meant to fall upon the shield (dead or wounded) or to be brought home dead upon it. In support of the second (traditional) interpretation cf. Moralia, 235A, and Valerius Maximus, II.7, ext. 2.

ἄλλη προσαναδιδοῦσα τῷ παιδὶ τὴν ἀσπίδα καὶ παρακελευομένη, "τέκνον," ἔφη, "ἢ τὰν ἢ ἐπὶ τᾶς."
Items confiscated by St. Louis police from rioter:

Valerius Maximus 2.7 ext. 2 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
They were not surprised at the general's precept, remembering the maternal coaxing whereby those going forth to battle were told to come back to their mothers' sight alive with their shields or be brought back upon them dead. That was the watchword the Spartan warriors received within the walls of their homes before they fought.

idque a duce praecipi non mirabantur, maternarum blanditiarum memores quibus exituri ad proeliandum monebantur ut aut vivi cum armis in conspectum earum venirent aut mortui in armis referrentur. hoc intra domesticos parietes accepto signo Spartanae acies dimicabant.
See Mason Hammond, "A Famous Exemplum of Spartan Toughness," Classical Journal 75.2 (December 1979-January 1980) 97-109.

Dear Mr. Gilleland,

With regard to your recent post on Spartan women, you might be interested in this monument on the campus of Penn State, commemorating a fallen graduate. It’s a beautiful monument. I pass it 3 times a week on my way to class. It represents a shield, surmounted by the motto.

John Repsher

The fallen graduate is Lt. Michael P. Murphy, USN (1976-2005):

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