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Thesis. Fire Caste Society and Its Similarities to Ancient Sparta
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Old 24 Jul 2007, 15:39   #1 (permalink)
Shas'El
 
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Default Thesis. Fire Caste Society and Its Similarities to Ancient Sparta

Over the Last year and i bit I've been collecting Tau, I've been trying to find out ways to truly understand the mindset and Ideology of the Tau. During my AS Levels (courses taken in second last year of school, for those who don't know the English system) one thing i studied was Ancient Sparta and its social structure. As i learned more and more about both Sparta and the Tau i began to notice several similarities. i thought that perhaps i might be able to better understand the Tau by comparing it to Ancient Sparta, and therefore a set of Human, not alien ideals.

This isn't meant to any kind of History Lesson about Sparta, but obviously i will reffer to spartan social structure and ideals. Also I'm not trying to say that both societies are identical, and that the Tau are meant to be some-kind of 40k universe spartans. that ideal is completely wrong. indeed in some circumstances the Imperial Guard and Space Marines hold more in common with these Ancient people. However i hope to gain a better understanding of the Fire caste ideology and social structure by comparing it to a real world human society.

Firstly i would like to address the idea of the Greater Good. To the the Tau this is their whole ideology the furtherance and complete faith in the Greater Good, which is championed by the Ethereal Caste. Spartans were brought up to fight and die for the "State" or the "Greater Good" of Sparta. From this i can Draw the conclusion that it is impressed on Shas from Birth, to fight and die for the "Tau'va" this already gives me and insight into one of the very first lessons of a Tau child. That the Greater Good is the most important thing and is above all feelings of, fear,greed, lust etc. the is drawn from the ideals of the Spartans, where the Man served the state and it was his duty and Pride to set aside his own emotions, Wants and possibly his life for the Greater Good.

Continuing along the line of Tau childhood, i now study the Spartan Agoge to try and figure out how a child is raised. In Sparta Military training was compulsory, and every spartan had to learn to fight. indeed it was illegal for them to hold any other profession or skill. This i believe is same for Shas, if a child is born in the Shas caste then it has no choice but to follow the path of the warrior. and indeed as the codex says the only way to leave this path is either by death or by retirement when the shas is too old to be combat effective.

Although this does bring up more questions, such as When exactly the shas begin to learn the ways of the warrior? at the age of 7 as in Sparta? or possibly from birth itself. However what i do know is that they do partake in Saal training. similar to that of the spartan agoge until they come of age and complete their training.

This leads into the very heart of the Shas social structure. in Sparta there was little ideals of Family. From the age of 7, a spartan lived in a barracks with all the other children of his age. they would eat, sleep, fight, train and kill together throughout their military career (roughly 40-45 years). the boys in that barracks would be their only friends for the rest of their lives. i believe something similar would happen in shas military academies. while in Sparta this was access to build the trust and honour bond needed to fight in brutal Hoplite Warfare. in Tau society i see it as being just as necessary due to the Team basis of the Shas Military. According to the Codex most Tau military formations are Ad-Hoc and break up as soon the objective is completed. the team seems to be one of the permanent Military institutions.

indeed this also logically leads to Bonded teams, where the love and trust has come to a point where the Team of Shas has spent most of their lives together and are totally selflessly willing to sacrifice themselves for one another in the closest bond we can find that represents a family in the Tau society. indeed it also leads to another ideology were the Tau do not understand the idea of "War of Attrition" although both Sparta and Tau have small armies and cannot afford to lose massive amounts of troops for little gain. there is a more deeper explanation for this. due to the fact that Shas grow up and spend their lives with small team of lifelong friends, they see the true horror of having a comrade killed in battle. every death would effect them dearly. they would treasure the life of fellow Tau, more than the Human imperium for example. they would simply not be able to emotionally handle huge amounts of death for little gain.

not that Tau would be against war and death, but it would sadden them greatly if thousands of Tau lost their lives for such a small gain, and would find it hard justify their friends death with the greater good. Spartans too avoided wars of attrition and like Tau, tended to the destroy their enemy with the idea that "once the enemy is destroyed the land is free for the taking". this brings up several similarities in the way that the Fire Caste and The Spartans make war.

Although despite the fact i have highlighted many similarities between the Tau and the Spartans, in other ways they are completely different. Tau have no form of organised religion, and believe in science over superstition, while the Spartans were incredibly superstitious people, similar to the Imperium and their worship of the "God Emperor". But this also helps me to understand how the Tau treat situations and handle forays of bad luck etc. (certainly not by slaughtering a lamb and looking at its intestines).

Also the role of females is totally different. women in Sparta were simply meant for breeding the next batch of warriors, while in the Tau they are warriors as much as Males. however breeding would obviously be encouraged as a new generation is needed. due to the fact that the parents would fight together in battle, one would have to assume that any relationship could not be open, but more secretive, to avoid favoritism or something of the like. there was a similar system in Sparta, even a married couple didn't live together and the husband was expected to "escape" the barracks to meet with his wife in secrecy. this I believe helps me to form some sort of similarity between the two societies were open relationships are frowned upon but as long as they remain in secrecy and private they receive a tacit agreement. following the view that relationships are fine, so long as they do not effect the greater good or discapline in battle.
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Old 24 Jul 2007, 20:19   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Thesis. Fire Caste Society and Its Similarities to Ancient Sparta

Thanks! I found your article very useful.

I think it is most useful for contemplating Shas society before Fio'taun and the rise of the Ethereals. It also leads me to wonder how integrating with the other castes has affected Shas society.

I also like the idea that some T'au might maintain family bonds, but others would only have the bond of the Ta'lissera. It's important to keep in mind that even though all T'au work for the Greater Good, they are each individuals.

I think that would make an interesting story: A young shas who enjoys family ties is in a team that is tightly-knit enough to consider the Ta'lissera. The shas is being pressured by some of his comrades to focus only on the team, while other Tau he knows advise him that he is better to keep both ties. The shas must decide if he can have both relationships, and if not, which one is more important to the Greater Good.
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"What course of actions furthers the Greater Good?"
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Old 24 Jul 2007, 20:21   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Thesis. Fire Caste Society and Its Similarities to Ancient Sparta

useful? wow thanks. i never expected some-one to say that, i was more expecting flames, but hey i'll take all the good stuff i can get. thank you very much
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Old 24 Jul 2007, 20:29   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Thesis. Fire Caste Society and Its Similarities to Ancient Sparta

Heh, want irony?

Spartans fought with spear / pike and shield in "phalanx".

I've been tinkering with "Pre-Aun" fluff, and the Fire Case do indeed use spears as their primary weapons in my stories. It is only the development of gunpowder that changes their tactics significantly.
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Old 24 Jul 2007, 20:54   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Thesis. Fire Caste Society and Its Similarities to Ancient Sparta

Yeah, But what I find weird is that a civilization could have the same inventions as one that is such a great distance away, instead of going a different with first powering weapons that aren't powered by pure muscle.

But yeah that was a great article, and anyone who flames it is a jerk!
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Old 25 Jul 2007, 09:13   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Thesis. Fire Caste Society and Its Similarities to Ancient Sparta



Oh boy, two of my favorite subjects!

Good posting here Majonga!

While I am no authority, I can say you have stated many good ideas.
From the "Fire Warrior" novel, they alluded enough to a breeding program of sorts.
Something that is state controlled and I can only imagine that they find compatible genetic mixes. This is similar to what the Spartans did, albeit at a face value kind of approach.

Example- Female had to keep ultra fit and very healthy to have better offspring.

Also reminds me of the Bene Gesserit approach a bit as well.

But one area where they (Spartans, samurai, tau) were highly advanced (and I feel their greatest advantage) compared to others is the fact that they were extremely strong minded. So the idea of them, at least the Spartans and Samurai being unable to emotionally handle the strain of war on that level simply does not stack up.
Emotional control under all extremes of war was highly trained for and admired.

The Spartans/Samurai had mastered their own mental weakness of physical harm to themselves. They knew that out of control emotions of any type always has a bad effect in fighting efficiency. It was seen as a grave weakness to succumb too.

Another thing and I am sure you did not intend it. Spartan woman were the most free woman of Greece at the time. Spartan woman owned businesses and land and practically ran the show as the army was always marching here, or there. No other woman of Greece had those kind of luxury's or responsibilities.

Spartan men at the age of 30 were finally able to live with their wife in their own home, unlike what seems to be the case with Tau warriors. Sparta was actually very sexually liberated, probably the most so of all Greece! :-*
Your reasoning of being secretive actually stems from the notion that too much soft family life and female virtues of compassion will make a warrior soft at heart. There has been enough writing from "Xenophon" to make sense of that. Warriors at the age of 30 were thought well institutionalized to the hardships of constant campaign and butchery to allow them to travel home every now and again between campaigns.

To me I had always thought a better comparison would be Tau and Samurai.
Your ideas place this in a much more "like" concept.
There was a great taboo about showing affection in public places for Samurai as this was a dishonor to the Lord/Shogun/etc. Since a Samurai only drew breath to serve his lord. Even the national "religion" of Shintoism is extremely similar in mindset to the Tau "Greater Good". Supporting this is the fact that Shintoism is not technically a religion, there is no real structure/scripture, etc. Only this idea of a harmonization with your surrounding and that all things are imbued with a relative base "suchness". Being in harmony with whatever environment you find yourself in is something that to this day, they (Japanese) still adhere to.

It has always seemed to me that in all our military history Sparta and Samurai idealism (Bushido code specifically) have come closest to the most critical of all skills and that is strong mind above all. Tau have that so far as fluff is concerned.

All of them practice the same things:
*self denial of lifes luxuries which make you weak. Spartan men before the latter half of the Peloponnesian war with Athens were not even allowed to carry money on their person as the laws of Lycurgus were extremely keen on keeping you sharp minded.
*the domicile is purposefully simple and hardy with no luxury.
*No flowery speech was allowed, it was a point of Spartan pride to make speech as terse and to the point as possible, this made for excellent battlefield communication.
*Training was a constant method of active meditation for Samurai and Tau.
*The Spartans even developed "Phobologia"(SP) or the study of fear...what makes the human mind break and how to cut that weakness from the mind.
*Food was a biggee. It was never correct for a Spartan/Samurai to go to excess in fine foods, or alcohol.

Well, I could ramble forever on this subject, but I am glad you brought this most excellent range of thoughts to light.

Good on you man,

Otto





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Old 25 Jul 2007, 10:40   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Thesis. Fire Caste Society and Its Similarities to Ancient Sparta

Quote:
Originally Posted by Far_Sh0t
Yeah, But what I find weird is that a civilization could have the same inventions as one that is such a great distance away, instead of going a different with first powering weapons that aren't powered by pure muscle.

But yeah that was a great article, and anyone who flames it is a jerk!
How is it "weird" at all?

Our first weapon was the spear; a sharpened piece of wood, sometimes with stone or metal on the end. This is, as weapons go, about as basic as you can get.

Our society has gone through many different versions of weapons, but primarily the Spear held dominance. Every country has evolved to use spears in some form or another; Samurai used bow and spear as their first choice of weapons, Pikes were famous through Greece and (later) europe, the Romans used Pilum, a throwing spear; the weapon has been used time and again since the dawn of man. It is a very simple, yet very flexible weapon. Why, then, does it strike you as so foolish Tau would use spears?

Let's have a reality check; the reason they didn't instantly jump onto Black Powder and skip out the rest is that it could never happen! The Tau would have to have been born on a planet where muskets grew on trees, and cows crapped gunpowder. It doesn't work that way; you need muscle-powered weapons first, and the Spear is the base level tech.
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Old 25 Jul 2007, 11:11   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Thesis. Fire Caste Society and Its Similarities to Ancient Sparta

Our first weapon/tool was actually a rock.

Anyway, the article looks solid. Although women in Spartan society had a great deal more rights then their female equivelents in other Greek cities. For example, they essentially had full reign of the household, and also looked after financial aspects of their crop yields. They could also go about thier business.

Although it doesn't account for changes in Sparte's latter history, ie the decline in the Spartiatai class, and the reliance on mercanaries, and allies, and locally raised troops, to fill the needs of the army, whilst the Spartiatai took the role as officers, and body guard.

Spartans were excellent stoics, and philosophers. This shows similarities to the water caste. They mocked Phillip II, with one word.
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Old 25 Jul 2007, 13:05   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Thesis. Fire Caste Society and Its Similarities to Ancient Sparta

otto, truthfully i agree with what most of you said, and your knowledge of sparta is totally accurate. the connection to bushido is also really interesting. i heard people comparing the too before. however i still think that Tau hold a slightly more compassionate veiw of the world, spartans would generally greatly mourn the loss of just one comrade. but i agree with the stoic warrior ideal. i was just trying to build up on the immense bond that does exist in tau formations and how it mirrors the bond of the men in a phalnx formation. i can see the tau holding several values similar to sparta. indeed the idea that it is alright to throw away your spear but not your shield becuase your sheild protects the man next to you. i see the tau holding that very ideal in mind were the treasure the lives of their troops. even great warriors however would shed tears at such mindless slaughter. even the duke of wellington wept at waterloo.

to socky, spartans were not very good philosophers, the spartans tended to be very down to earth grim men who saw only what was right infront of them. they rarely gave time to theory. this is shown mostly by the fact that the spartan social and political system didn't change for 300 years. while the Athen's (their rivals) were the great philosiphers and scientists. indeed the only literature we have from sparta is some poems. the rest of the ancient sources are non spartans. indeed the spartans were probably very close minded, stubborn, practical people. if anything were very isolationist and distrustful of new ideas

wargammer, i agree with the idea of the tau having similar styles of honour and war but i significantly doubt the phalanx formation or any other type of brutal close comabt was involved. indeed i see the Tau before the Aun's as a more indian style of war, were tribes sent out warbands etc. and large brutal battle was uncommon. i believ this because if the tau had risen before the auns in the same style of hoplite warfare they would put much more empahsis on hand to hand and see range fighting as cowardice. much like the spartans or samurai did. thats why i see the tau as a good mix between native american tribes, samurai and spartans, for different reasons of course.

on the otherhand i think it'd be really interesting to design a tau army following very spartan ideals, the fluff would be pretty interesting and the battles cool. but on the other hand the true ideals of spartan war. (big muscle out battle, last one standing wins, slaughter) suits space marines better
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Old 25 Jul 2007, 17:15   #10 (permalink)
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Yeah, Majonga I have to agree with you on the Spartan philosophy bit. They just did not do it.

Read the big ones of the time such as Plato/Aristotle/Socrates/Xenophon all wrote on the Spartans at one point with great admiration for Spartan virtue.

But Xenophon could truly be closest to actually experiencing Sparta as he actually fought for them at one point and was a guest in exile there. He still never was a Spartan. The others were not Spartans either.

Even the famous Spartan poem "Tell the Spartans stranger passing by, that here obedient to their laws we lie" is not written by a Spartan, but by Simonides of Ceos!
He held the Spartans in high regard and was friend to them.

Spartans after Lycurgus did not put any stock at all into the realm of art, or philosophy and only used music and dance as a methodology of marching and battle music/tunes and better foot work in battle.

I can't imagine the Spartans even caring a wit over lack of "culture".
They were simply the consummate professional soldiers born out of the vacuum of a particular environment they found themselves in.
On the Spartan fall, nobody can really argue it was none other than a terrible necessity at the time of the 30 year war with the Athenian led Delian league, and one primary mover in Sparta who was not even one of their kings!

Lysander...he accepted the Persian coin to finance a fleet to defeat Athens and a pursue a war 30 years long. Coin undid the Spartans like it does almost every democratic/capitalist nation. That and a super nasty earthquake kicked the Klkn out of Sparta at a rather terrible time which caused their helots to revolt.

Okay, I will shut up on that.

Anyway, Tau and Samurai too share the caste system similar to Sparta, but more so the Samurai.* Even their elemental caste system is very Shinto based.

Tau were my first 40k army and I still wish to this day that they could have had some of that Samura/Spartan hand to hand skill, but oh well...I still will wish it!!
At the moment the blade only serves as a symbol of the old ways in the form of honor blades.

Geez, I might just start playing again...I can feel my Tau trying to bring me back into balance! ;D

Thanks again,

Count Otto Fenring
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