The Legions of Ephialtes

sob IIA week or so ago, when Angus Campbell was appointed to head Australia’s armed forces, a man of martial background and dear friend of Quadrant Online dropped us a quick note written in the ink of optimism. “He’s not perfect, but he’ll be an improvement. How could he not be?” Our correspondent went on to note with approval that Campbell hailed from the SAS and had overseen the successful implementation of Operation Sovereign Borders. “No high heels in his kit bag!” our correspondent concluded.

And then, disappointment.

As his very first edict, rather than examine the case for weapons that don’t work and won’t work, Campbell distributed an infamous memo banning machismo “symbology” – no more death’s heads, Grim Reapers or, may the gods of Bengalla forgive him, images of The Phantom, who was accused of promoting vigilantism and, presumably, of encouraging Australia’s fighting men and women to report for duty in purple long johns.

SpartanUPDATE: The RAAF will have trouble banishing all reference to those nasty Spartans, for that is the nom de guerre of its twin-engine C-27J ‘battlefield airlifter’. Follow this link for more

The real surprise, though, was that Spartans also made Campbell’s verboten list, in this instance for their society’s “extreme militarism”. This ethic came in handy at Thermopylae, where 300 of them pointedly informed the Persians that they would decide who came to Greece and the manner in which they arrived. One might have thought this would have fostered a sense of kinship with Leonidas & Co,  as several thousand years later it was Campbell who stopped and turned back that sequential armada of leaky boats, many of which bore Iranian descendants of the xiphos fodder with which Persian King Xerxes intended to culturally enrich the Hellenes.

More than that, the Spartans boasted other habits which might serve as examples to Australia’s inclusive armed forces. They were advocates, for example, of light and healthy diets and, as Herodotus informs us, enjoyed grooming each other’s hair. Had Australia’s armed forces instituted similar policies the national defence might yet be served by the ferocious Cate McGregor and her spitfire keyboard. A morale-sapping ordeal it must be to wield the styling wand and blowdryer on one’s own.

If not Spartans, who then might make a fit symbol for the ADF?

In choosing to stay, fight and die, Leonidas famously assured his comrades they would “sup soon with Pluto”, by which he meant the god of the underworld. Given that the Australian Defence Force Academy boasts quite a few academics critical of Australia’s military past and the Anzac tradition, a little postmodernist re-jigging could conceivably recast this quote as a reference to Walt Disney’s well-known cartoon dog. Amiable, dim, and lacking any obvious male parts, Campbell might well find the yellow mutt acceptable.

Still, upon reflection, probably not. Campbell is critical of Spartans generally, so logic suggests only an outright opponent can capture the spirit he wishes to encourage. Xerxes is out, of course, as the appeal of his invasive multiculturalism is negated by the simple fact that he lost. Until those eager scholars at the Australian Defence Academy do a bit more work, defeat on the battlefield will continue to be regarded as an undesirable outcome.

That leaves only one real contender to replace skulls and crossbones and all that other offensive “symbology”: Ephialtes of Trachis, the turncoat who led Xerxes’ legions through a hidden mountain pass to attack Leonidas from the rear.

So Ephialates it is. Soldiers in the field might find that choice unacceptable, but what do they know or matter? The important thing in the modern, politically correct military is that the desk warriors avoid being attacked by the armies of Twitter, ABC editorialists, gender-justice advocates and those who, like Campbell, recognise The Phantom for the enemy of social cohesion that he is, purple undies and all.

For more on Campbell’s policy, see Bernard Gaynor


7 thoughts on “The Legions of Ephialtes

  • lloveday says:

    Can’t post the photo here, but This story, by a Christian Pastor, has a photo of Campbell exiting his helicopter, which is emblazoned with The Grim Reaper.
    Following the Dawn Service on Wednesday, we have an informal commemoration at my local; I’d like to read this out, but don’t think I’d be able to get through it The Anzac on the Wall

  • Blair says:

    “The Phantom, who was accused of promoting vigilantism ”
    “The 14th Phantom was murdered by the Singh Pirate Chandra Sykharn that (sic) infiltrated the Patrol. That made the 15th Phantom realize how vulnerable the patrol was when it was known that the Phantom was the commander. Therefore, the Phantom has since then been the unknown commander of the Patrol, rarely seen by the patrolmen.
    The motto of the patrol is “We stand against evil” (sometimes “We serve against evil”), rendered in latin as “Stamus Contra Malum” or more frequently as “Stamus Contra Malo” (which is gramatically incorrect).”

  • exuberan says:

    I too felt indignant at the General’s first edict though having no Military experience whatsoever. An ex Military friend advised that some units were using the frightening symbology as part their descent into what he termed ‘Cowboy Outfits’. It was this aspect of behaviour that the General was trying to excise.

  • Warty says:

    In his The Australian article, this morning, Troy Branson wrote: ‘Anzac Day speaks to the values that define what it means to be Australian. It is about courage when facing adversity. It is about mateship and community. It reminds us of our larrikin, down-to-earth, no-nonsense spirit. And it is also about sacrifice, service, honour, duty and responsibility’.
    Well yes, we’ve heard variations of this many times, but the point is that it is totally at odds with what Lieutenant General Cameron is trying to achieve with our ADF, with top down directions aimed at ‘sanitising’ what had been a hard-earned esprit de corps developed from the days of the Boer War.
    That esprit de corps was in fact a bottom up development, with ‘companionship’ being one aspect of the spirit amongst the fighting troops in the trenches or the fields; with ‘larrikinism’ being the use of humour to offset the effect of extraordinarily difficult conditions; and the ‘down-to-earth, no nonsense’ quality a means to cut through bull-shit, often that of the higher command.
    Angus Campbell may have been in the SAS, but one questions whether or not he comprehends the necessary ‘mettle’ required of the men of Delta Coy at Long Tan, back in August 1966, where they were outnumbered ten to one. And these were men; there were no women there, nor anyone of questionable identity. Any attempt to bring our ADF into alignment with the ‘community values’ of today will give us a defence force an enemy would be delighted to take on.
    I get the feeling we’re in deep trouble.

  • prsmith14@gmail.com says:

    David Morrison and now Angus Fraser. It is so dispiriting. Paying for defence forces is expensive. They produce nothing that we can use in everyday life. They are a dead weight, and an enormous, expense. But they they have a vital purpose. That purpose is to defend us against the bad guys. That is their sole purpose. The bad guys are ruthless and nastier than we can possibly imagine. They enslave, they torture, they butcher. We know that because we have hard evidence stretching from the present right throughout history. We need tough guys to defend us. The kind of men that frightened the Duke of Wellington. And,however tough you are, maybe symbols and battle cries are important when you are being ordered to charge the enemy and risk your life. I to, like Warty, feel that we are in trouble.

    • lloveday says:

      I wrote this to a Colonel (retired) friend after attending a Dawn Service in 2016:

      Just back from the Consulate.

      When did the Australian Government stop commemorating Anzac Day and start celebrating?
      Thought I might get away from it here, but no, she (well you could not expect a male to give the address, could you?) after telling us what we were celebrating, told us of the “non-traditional role” the armed forces now play in “working with indigenous communities”. To stop them rising up and retaking “their” country I suppose.

      I hope I’ll not live to know the answer, but I increasingly feel more strongly that “we” would not respond well to an invasion war – I think the “genetical” willingness and ability to defend “what is ours” is being “environmentalised” out of “us” (or importantly the ones of us that matter).

  • staffnsnake says:

    As I wrote in my Spectator article last Sunday “The Army serves the Crown, not itself”, the only sane reason I can see for banning Spartan symbols is that they have been appropriated by European nativist group Generation Identitaire. As such, it has become a political expression, verboten int he ADF (unless such political expression is for Mardi Gras protest marches!). The Marvel Comic depiction of Leonidas and his 300 also plays to this, somewhat.

    Otherwise, classical depictions of courageous Spartans have indeed been employed for centuries to communicate stoic resilience and fighting spirit against terrible odds and I agree that inclusion of Classical Spartan imagery with cartoon death skulls is going way too far.

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