For pupils in Lower 5 who are studying Classical Civilisation, a study of Sparta forms one of their units. Recently Mr Plater's class experienced making their own Spartan shields, as well as learning about how Spartans would have used them.
Spartans were a wholly militarised society with everything geared to success in war. They abandoned all unnecessary finery, culture and comforts, instead focusing on preparation for battle. Boys were taken from home at the age of seven to be raised in a tough military school where they learned battle tactics and how to survive in the wild. They trained with heavy wooden weapons daily and were subjected to beatings for the slightest fault.
Chief among their tactics was the use of the Phalanx, a disciplined shield based system requiring huge precision and coordination. A Spartan's shield covered half his body from shoulder to knee and half of his neighbour on his left. Other Greek armies used a similar method but seem not to have had the sheer discipline of the Spartans, nor length of training (11 years). Spartans were also taught to dance so that in the next phase of battle, which was close-quarter engagement with a short, slightly curved, razor-sharp sword, their speed of movement and balance allowed them to defeat opponents.
For Lower 5, the purpose of manoeuvres is to show them just how difficult it was to coordinate precise movement and maintain a locked shield.
More photographs can be found here.