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Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Ekdromoi

As a history teacher, a long time ago, I taught Classical History, Greek and Roman, both at an advanced high school and at the college level. Today, because of a conversation, I am thinking about the Battle of Marathon. The interesting thing is that there is a bit of a mystery as to how the Athenians won that battle against many, many more Persians. Some historians believe that a small group of men from the army of the Persians defected and told the Athenians of the battle plans. Another historian wrote that the superior Persian cavalry left, tired of a stalemate and the Athenians only had to fight the ground troops. Whatever the reasons, the victory was established by the hoplites in the phalanx position, the first soldiers who met the resistance. Now, all hoplites were freemen and middle class as they had to bring their own armor. They were called "iron men" because of the breast plates and helmets. Spears were the main weapons and the first attack, followed by hand to hand sword fighting.

A hoplite was not a slave. He was well-trained and very strong. He had to run into battle with heavy gear and he had to be accurate.

The light runners were called the ekdromoi. They were the out-runners, with only spear and shield. They did not have the breastplate or armor. The drawing above shows the iron men. It is hard to find a drawing of an ekdromoi and the only one I found, on a Greek vase, was a bit too graphic for this blog. I am fond of this group of hoplites, as they were very fast runners and went first, having to be extremely accurate and yet in an irregular formation in order to confuse the enemy.

These hoplites would clear the way for the iron men.

One of the books I taught was the adventures of Xenophon and this book, Anabasis,  or The Persian Expeditionwas always a class favorite. In his story of the Ten Thousand, the ekdromoi played a key role. If you have not read the book, do. I love to teach this book.

My point of all this is that some of us in the battle for souls are the hoplites. We are not the generals, nor the strategists. We are the freemen who bring our own weapons into the battle, fighting freely, winning over great odds.

This is the spiritual warfare of the Church Militant. We have all the armor and skills we need through the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. We have all the strategy from the Teaching Magisterium of the Church. We have grace and the virtues. We only need to respond to wherever we are called.

I love Gimli's line in The Return of the King, "Certainty of death, *small* chance of success... What are we waiting for?"

for NS