Carpaea

Carpaea

Among the ancient Athenians and Magnesians, carpaea (Gr καρπαία) was a kind of dance or military exercise, performed by two persons; the one acting as a laborer, the other as a robber. This is explained by Xenophon in Anabasis, Book VI. The scene starts as follows: the laborer lays aside his weapon, and goes to sow and plough, yet looks warily about himself, as if afraid of being surprised. The robber suddenly appears, and the laborer, leaving his plough, gets his weapon, and fights in defence of his oxen. The whole scene is performed to the sound of flutes, and in cadence.

Sometimes, the robber was overcome, and sometimes the laborer. The victor's reward was the oxen and plough. The design of the exercise was to teach and accustom the peasants to defending themselves against the attacks of ruffians.

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