Did Spartans Have Dreadlocks?

What scholars and historians know about the Spartans comes from statues erected of them and surviving literature from the period. However, at least one figure of a Spartan officer depicts the man with dreadlocks. [1] Could it be possible; did Spartans have dreadlocks? 

Spartans probably didn’t have dreadlocks, though some people believe they did because statues from the period look like men with dreadlocks. Spartans did, however, have long hair. Most scholars seem to think that they wore it in a top-knot or “man bun” style for efficiency.

This article will further discuss the arguments for and against the likelihood of Spartans having dreadlocks. It will also examine which hairstyles Spartans likely had. Finally, it’ll trace the origins of dreadlocks and outline why people still wear them today. 

Spartan wear dreadlocks
Who invented dreadlocks? See below

Who Invented Dreadlocks?

Most people credit the ancient Egyptians with having invented dreadlocks. However, their first mention dates back to Hindu Vedic scriptures, so it’s likely that the Indians were really the first to wear dreads. 

Of course, many people would argue that the first people to wear dreadlocks were cavemen – neanderthals – who had little access to tools that would allow them to wash or cut their hair. As such, it’s not unfeasible that they had long, matted locs. 

However, the first documented mention of locs is in the Vedas, where they were called jaata. [2] Shiva, the supreme Hindu god, supposedly had long, heavily matted dreads. 

With all due respect to Hinduism and its followers, it’s unlikely that anyone actually saw the god Shiva to verify this point. Nonetheless, as has been common throughout history – and still happens today – people model their gods after themselves. Therefore, if a Hindu god was sporting dreadlocks, it’s safe to assume people in India at that time probably had them, as well. 

Aside from the Vedas, the earliest archaeological evidence of locs comes from mummies from ancient Egypt and Peru. [3] Scientists, archaeologists, and researchers have uncovered numerous mummy specimens over the years, some dating back to over 5,000 years ago. [4]  

Many of these specimens from Egypt and Peru still had their locs intact. So even if there’s no concrete proof that Indians were wearing dreadlocks in 1500 BC, there is proof that Egyptians were wearing them more than 3000 years ago. 

Spartan hairstyles
What hairstyles did Spartans wear? See below

What Hairstyles Did Spartans Wear?

Spartan warriors kept their hair long and probably tied it up in what today would be called a “man bun” to keep it out of their eyes while fighting. Spartan magistrates may have braided their hair or possibly have even had dreads. Spartan youths kept their hair cut short.

Many websites that talk about the history of dreadlocks claim that Spartan warriors wore this distinctive hairstyle. [5] However, most of these assumptions come from the surviving Greek and Spartan statues that seem to show the men’s hair in locs. 

However, most scholars agree that the surviving statues aren’t depicting dreadlocks; they think it was just a way to showcase long, possibly braided, hair. Instead, historians believe that Spartans probably kept their hair long and flowing when not in battle. 

Famous Green historian and philosopher Plutarch discusses the Spartans’ long hair in The Life of Lycurgus. In this tale, he quotes a famous Spartan leader, Charrillus, referring to long hair as “the cheapest of ornaments.” In other words, long, flowing hair was an inexpensive way to decorate themselves and make them look more appealing. 

When going into battle, the Spartans probably “tied their hair in a knot over the crown of the head,” which they then covered with their helmets. It was a practical way to keep their hair out of their eyes. Both Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and Herodotus’ “The Battle of Thermopylae” allude to this practice. 

Both authors talk about how much pride the Spartans took in their long hair. In fact, Spartan boys weren’t allowed to have long hair until they hit puberty, at which point, they’d begin growing it out, never to cut it. It symbolized their battle prowess and was a mark of their manliness. 

Herodotus even devotes a large chunk of his work to explaining how Xerxes sent a spy to check on the Spartan warriors the night before the battle, and the spy caught the Spartans lovingly caring for their hair. 

This passage, too, is another indication that the Spartans probably didn’t loc their hair. Dreadlocked hair would not be easy to care for or brush, which Herodotus claims the warriors were doing to prepare for battle. They could, however, brush it out and tie it up man bun-style on top of their heads.

Even though the Spartan warriors almost certainly didn’t wear dreadlocks, it’s possible the magistrates did. The magistrates wouldn’t have to worry about trying to fit dreadlocked hair beneath a battle helmet, and braiding their hair or putting it in locks would be a simple, convenient way to display it without having to worry with it too much.

Spartan helmets
Why do people wear dreadlocks? See below

Why Do People Wear Dreadlocks?

People wear dreadlocks for many different reasons. In Ethiopia, New Zealand, Tibet, and India, some people wear dreadlocks as symbols of religious devotion. Jamaican Rastafarians wear them for a similar reason – to keep themselves natural and in a “pure state.” Others just like the style. 

In the case of Rastafarians and people from Ethiopia, New Zealand, Tibet, and India, dreadlocks are spiritual. These people believe they shouldn’t alter the form that God or another higher power gave them. That means not cutting their hair or excessively washing it. 

Locs allow their hair to grow and maintain its natural qualities, and the lack of grooming frees the wearers from vanity and allows them to get closer to God. 

Furthermore, some people today wear locs as a social symbol. As one article on Knotty Boy, a popular dreadlock care site, puts it, dreadlocks are “a statement of non-violent non-conformity, communalism and socialistic values, and solidarity with less fortunate or oppressed minorities.” 

Finally, some people just really like the way dreads look, or they enjoy the freedom they get from not having to deal with their hair every day. Dreadlocks are a very low-maintenance hairstyle. People who don’t have a lot of time or don’t want to waste a lot of time trying to tame their unruly hair every morning often choose to loc it instead.


Spartan warriors probably didn’t have dreadlocks, though Spartan magistrates might have. All adult male Spartans likely had long hair, though. 

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