Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-n6p7q Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-24T06:27:44.424Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 December 2014

Ioannis Ziogas*
Australian National
Get access


In the Apophthegmata Laconica, a collection of witty exchanges that highlight the shrewdness of Laconian brevity, we read the following story. An Argive once taunted a Spartan by pointing out the multitude of Spartan tombs in Argive territory. The Spartan retorted that, by contrast, not a single Argive tomb could be found in Sparta. The author of the Plutarchan tale comments that the Spartan insinuated that, while his people had repeatedly invaded Argos, the Argives had never set foot on Sparta (Mor. 233c; cf. Vit. Ages. 31.6). Besides attesting to the sharp wit of Laconian concision, the story is a good example of how easily a soldier's tomb can serve different national agendas. While the presence of Spartan dead in Argos is a source of pride for the Argives, from another point of view it can be read as a sign of Spartan military prowess. The Greek word σῆμα (‘tomb’) speaks for the crucial role of semiotics in interpreting the semantics of military monuments. The tomb is a sign that needs to be decoded; only more often than not there is more than one way of deciphering it.

Research Article
Copyright © Aureal Publications 2014 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


An earlier version of this article was presented in Sydney in January 2013 (at the annual conference of the Australasian Society for Classical Studies) and I would like to thank the members of the audience who asked questions and offered suggestions. I am particularly grateful to Matthew Sears, David Pritchard, Peter Londey and Doug Kelly. Erica Bexley read several drafts of this essay and gave me extremely useful feedback. The anonymous readers of this journal offered detailed, perceptive and challenging comments on both the argument and structure of my article. I would also like to thank the editor of Ramus, Helen Morales, and the associate editor, John Penwill.


Baumbach, M. (2000), ‘„Wanderer, kommst du nach Sparta…‟: zur Rezeption eines Simonides-Epigramms’, Poetica 32, 1-22.Google Scholar
Baumbach, M., Petrovic, A. and Petrovic, I. (eds.) (2010), Archaic and Classical Greek Epigram (Cambridge).Google Scholar
Baumbach, M., Petrovic, A. and Petrovic, I. (2010), ‘Archaic and Classical Greek Epigram: An Introduction’, in Baumbach, et al. (2010), 1-19.Google Scholar
Bayliss, A.J. (2009), ‘Using Few Words Wisely? “Laconic Swearing” and Spartan Duplicity’, in Hodkinson, S. (ed.), Sparta: Comparative Approaches (Swansea), 231-60.Google Scholar
Bing, P. (1995), ‘Ergänzungsspiel in the Epigrams of Callimachus’, A&A 41, 115-31.Google Scholar
Bradford, A.S. (1994), ‘The Duplicitous Spartan’, in Powell, A. and Hodkinson, S. (eds.), The Shadow of Sparta (London/New York), 59-85.Google Scholar
Bridges, E. (2007), ‘The Guts and the Glory: Pressfield's Spartans at the Gates of Fire’, in Bridges, et al. (2007), 405-21.Google Scholar
Bridges, E., Hall, E. and Phodes, P.J. (eds.) (2007), Cultural Responses to the Persian Wars: Antiquity to the Third Millennium (Oxford).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bruss, J.S. (2005), Hidden Presences: Monuments, Gravesites, and Corpses in Greek Funerary Epigram (Leuven).Google Scholar
Burn, A.R. (1984), Persia and the Greeks 2 (London).Google Scholar
Clarke, M. (2002), ‘Spartan atē at Thermopylae’, in Powell, and Hodkison, (2002), 63-84.Google Scholar
Clough, E. (2004), ‘Loyalty and Liberty: Thermopylae in the Western Imagination’, in Figueira, T.J. (ed.), Spartan Society (Swansea), 363-84.Google Scholar
Day, W.J. (1989), ‘Rituals in Stone: Early Greek Grave Epigrams and Monuments’, JHS 109, 16-28.Google Scholar
Day, W.J. (2000), ‘Epigram and Reader: Generic (Re-)Activation of Ritual’, in Depew, M. and Obbink, D. (eds.), Matrices of Genre: Authors, Canons, and Society (Cambridge MA/London), 37-57.Google Scholar
Ecker, U. (1990), Grabmal und Epigramm: Studien zur frühgriechischen Sepulkraldichtung (Stuttgart).Google Scholar
Eco, U. (1974), The Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts (Bloomington).Google Scholar
Erbse, H. (1998), ‘Zu den Epigrammen des Simonides’, RhM 141, 213-30.Google Scholar
Fotheringham, L.S. (2012), ‘The Positive Portrayal of Sparta in Late-Twentieth-Century Fiction’, in Hodkinson, and Morris, (2012), 393-428.Google Scholar
Gaisser, J.H. (1993), Catullus and his Renaissance Readers (Oxford).Google Scholar
Gaisser, J.H. (2002), ‘The Reception of Classical Texts in the Renaissance’, in A.J. Grieco, M. Rocke and Gioffredi Superbi, F. (eds.), The Italian Renaissance in the Twentieth Century (Florence), 387-40.Google Scholar
Garrod, H.W. (1919), Worms and Epitaphs (Oxford).Google Scholar
Grant, J. (1961), ‘Leonidas’ Last Stand’, Phoenix 15, 14-27.Google Scholar
Green, P. (1996), The Greco-Persian Wars (Berkeley/London).Google Scholar
Griessmair, E. (1966), Das Motiv der mors immatura in den griechischen metrischen Grabinschriften (Innsbruck).Google Scholar
Hansen, P.A. (1983-89), Carmina Epigraphica Graeca, 2 vols. (Berlin/New York).Google Scholar
Hart, K. (1992), Australian Writers: A.D. Hope (Oxford).Google Scholar
Heinze, R. (1969), ‘Von altgriechischen Kriegsgräben’, in Pfohl, G. (ed.), Das Epigramm (Darmstadt), 47-55.Google Scholar
Hibberd, D. (1986), ‘Who Were the War Poets, Anyway?’, in Roucoux, M. (ed.), English Literature of the Great War Revisited (Amiens), 108-20.Google Scholar
Higbie, C. (2010), ‘Epigrams on the Persian Wars: Monuments, Memory and Politics’, in Baumbach, et al. (2010), 183-201.Google Scholar
Hodkinson, S., and Morris, I.M. (eds.) (2012), Sparta in Modern Thought: Politics, History and Culture (Swansea).Google Scholar
Hollis, M., and Keegan, P. (eds.) (2003), 101 Poems Against War (London).Google Scholar
Hope, A.D. (1981), Antechinus: Poems 1975-1980 (London).Google Scholar
Kipling, R. (1919), The Years Between (London).Google Scholar
Lazenby, J.F. (1979), The Defence of Greece (Warminster).Google Scholar
Levene, D.S. (2007), ‘Xerxes goes to Hollywood’, in Bridges, et al. (2007), 383-403.Google Scholar
Loraux, N. (1977), ‘La «belle mort» spartiate’, Ktèma 2, 105-12.Google Scholar
Loraux, N. (1995), The Experiences of Tiresias: The Feminine and the Greek Man, tr. Wissing, P. (Princeton).Google Scholar
Low, P. (2004), ‘Commemorating the Spartan War-Dead’, in Hodkinson, S. and Powell, A. (eds.), Sparta and War (Swansea), 85-109.Google Scholar
MacDowell, D. (1986), Spartan Law (Edinburgh).Google Scholar
Martindale, C. (1993), Redeeming the Text: Latin Poetry and the Hermeneutics of Reception (Cambridge).Google Scholar
McCulloch, A.M. (2010), Dance of the Nomad: A Study of the Selected Notebooks of A.D. Hope (Canberra).Google Scholar
Meyer, D. (2004), Inszeniertes Lesevergnügen: das inschriftliche Epigramm und seine Rezeption bei Kallimachos (Stuttgart).Google Scholar
Nagy, G. (1983), ‘Sēma and Noēsis: Some Illustrations’, Arethusa 16, 35-53.Google Scholar
Page, D.L. (1962), Poetae Melici Graeci (Oxford).Google Scholar
Page, D.L. (1981), Further Greek Epigrams (Cambridge).Google Scholar
Peek, W. (1955), Griechische Grabgedichte, Vol. 1 (Berlin).Google Scholar
Petrovic, A. (2007), Kommentar zu den simonideischen Versinschriften (Leiden/Boston).Google Scholar
Philipp, G. (1968), ‘Wie das Gesetz es befahl? Bemerkungen zu einer Leonidas-legende’, Gymnasium 75, 1-45.Google Scholar
Powell, A., and Hodkinson, S. (eds.) (2002), Sparta: Beyond the Mirage (Swansea).Google Scholar
Rawson, E. (1969), The Spartan Tradition in European Thought (Oxford).Google Scholar
Rebenich, S. (2002), ‘From Thermopylae to Stalingrad: The Myth of Leonidas in German Historiography’, in Powell, and Hodkinson, (2002), 323-49.Google Scholar
Reitzenstein, R. (1893), Epigramm und Skolion: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der alexandrinischen Dichtung (Giessen).Google Scholar
Roche, H. (2012), ‘Spartanische Pimpfe: The Importance of Sparta in the Educational Ideology of the Adolf Hitler Schools’, in Hodkinson, and Morris, (2012), 315-42.Google Scholar
Schmitz, T. (2010), ‘Speaker and Addressee in Early Greek Epigram and Lyric’, in Baumbach, et al. (2010), 25-41.Google Scholar
Schiller, F. (1804), ‘Der Spaziergang’, in Gedichte, Erster Theil (Leipzig), 49-65.Google Scholar
Sourvinou-Inwood, C. (1995), ‘Reading’ Greek Death: To the End of the Classical Period (Oxford).Google Scholar
Svenbro, J. (1993), Phrasikleia: An Anthropology of Reading in Ancient Greece, tr. Lloyd, J. (Ithaca NY) [orig. publ. 1988].Google Scholar
Trümpy, C. (2010), ‘Observations on the Dedicatory and Sepulchral Epigrams, and their Early History’, in Baumbach, et al. (2010), 167-79.Google Scholar
Tueller, M. (2010), ‘The Passer-By in Archaic and Classical Epigram’, in Baumbach, et al. (2010), 42-60.Google Scholar
Vandiver, E. (2010), Stand in the Trench, Achilles: Classical Receptions in British Poetry of the Great War (Oxford).Google Scholar
Vestrheim, G. (2010), ‘Voice in Sepulchral Epigrams: Some Remarks on the Use of First and Second Person in Sepulchral Epigrams, and a Comparison with Lyric Poetry’, in Baumbach, et al. (2010), 61-78.Google Scholar