There’s a famous saying attributed to ancient Sparta, “Come back with your shield, or on it.” In ancient Greece, were those killed in battle carried home on top of their shields? How did that work?

So, the saying is attributed to Spartan wives and mothers. The idea is that if you win, you’ll come home with your shield, and if you flee, you’ll have thrown your shield onto the ground and run. If you come back on your shield, you’ll have fought to the death. So women would tell the men, “Be victorious or die trying, but don’t run.” It’s a cool saying, but I’ve never understood the “on your shield” part. Why would someone be brought back on top of his shield? From a physical perspective, that sounds incredibly awkward. Would Greeks carry shields with dead bodies on them? If they put dead bodies on wagons with shields under them, wouldn’t the bodies slide off? Nothing about this sounds practical.

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What do you think?

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  1. It’s been refuted. Spartans buried their dead near the location of the battle. I think it was just a cool thing to say or was popularized much later.

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