In The History, book 3 part 46, Herodotus writes of the laconic Spartans:

When the Samians who had been banished by Polycrates came to Sparta, they went to the authorities and made a long speech, in view of the greatness of their need. At the first meeting, the Spartans said in answer that they had forgotten the first words of the request and could not understand the last. After that, the Samians had another meeting with the Spartan government, and this time they said nothing but, carrying a sack, said simply, "The sack needs grain." At this the Spartans answered, "You did not need to say 'sack'." But they resolved to help the exiled Samians.

Translator David Greene explains in a footnote:

This is, of course, a reference to the famous Spartan taciturnity and dislike of unnecessary eloquence. In this case, what is probably meant is that, if the they brought the sack with them, it was not necessary to use the word, "sack" in the sentence. One could just point at it and say, "Needs grain." The typical Spartan ephor, Sthenelaidas, as reported by Thucydides, in the conference at Sparta before the beginning of the Peloponnesian War opens his speech by saying, "I do not understand all this talking."

(The word laconic itself comes from Lacedaemon, the part of Greece wherein Sparta lies.)

TopicLiterature - 2007-04-29

(correlates: HerodotusOnThePersianPost, RevolutionsOfAnIrregularSolid, PeloponnesianWar, ...)