48. Spartans - The Warrior Class Apart

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

Who were Spartans ?


Spartans are the Fierce warriors of the ancient world and Sparta has been considered as Ideal State by legendary Philosphers like Plato and Rousseau governered with Best Practices, free from the corruptions of commerce and money..

Sparta was a warrior society in ancient Greece that reached the height of its power after defeating rival city-state Athens in the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.). Spartan culture was centered on loyalty to the state and military service. At age 7, Spartan boys entered a rigorous state-sponsored education,

Pic : Leonidas

military training and socialization program. Known as the Agoge, the system emphasized duty, discipline and endurance. Although Spartan women were not active in the military, they were educated and enjoyed more status and freedom than other Greek women. Because Spartan men were professional soldiers, all manual labor was done by a slave class, the Helots.


1. Spartan Society


Sparta, also known as Lacedaemon, was an ancient Greek city-state located primarily in the present-day region of southern Greece called Laconia. The population of Sparta consisted of three main groups: the Spartans, or Spartiates, who were full citizens; the Helots, or serfs/slaves; and the Perioeci, who were neither slaves nor citizens. The Perioeci, whose name means “dwellers-around,” worked as craftsmen and traders, and built weapons for the Spartans.





Did you know?


The word “spartan” means self-restrained, simple, frugal and austere.


The word laconic, which means pithy and concise, is derived from the Spartans, who prized brevity of speech.


According to Plutarch, Spartan children were assessed at birth, and those judged to be unhealthy were left to die. It is unclear whether girl children also suffered this treatment.



All healthy male Spartan citizens participated in the compulsory state-sponsored education system, the Agoge, which emphasized obedience, endurance, courage and self-control. Spartan men devoted their lives to military service, and lived communally well into adulthood. A Spartan was taught that loyalty to the state came before everything else, including one’s family.


The Helots, whose name means “captives,” were fellow Greeks, originally from Laconia and Messenia, who had been conquered by the Spartans and turned into slaves. The Spartans’ way of life would not have been possible without the Helots, who handled all the day-to-day tasks and unskilled labor required to keep society functioning: They were farmers, domestic servants, nurses and military attendants.

Pic : Spartan Society


Spartans, who were outnumbered by the Helots, often treated them brutally and oppressively in an effort to prevent uprisings. Spartans would humiliate the Helots by doing such things as forcing them to get debilitatingly drunk on wine and then make fools of themselves in public. (This practice was also intended to demonstrate to young people how an adult Spartan should never act, as self-control was a prized trait.) Methods of mistreatment could be far more extreme: Spartans were allowed to kill Helots for being too smart or too fit, among other reasons.


II. The Spartan Military and Wars


Unlike such Greek city-states as Athens, a center for the arts, learning and philosophy, Sparta was centered on a warrior culture. Male Spartan citizens were allowed only one occupation: solider. Indoctrination into this lifestyle began early. Spartan boys started their military training at age 7, when they left home and entered the Agoge. The boys lived communally under austere conditions. They were subjected to continual physical, competitions (which could involve violence), given meager rations and expected to become skilled at stealing food, among other survival skills.


The teenage boys who demonstrated the most leadership potential were selected for participation in the Crypteia, which acted as a secret police force whose primary goal was to terrorize the general Helot population and murder those who were troublemakers. At age 20, Spartan males became full-time soldiers, and remained on active duty until age 60.


The Spartans’ constant military drilling and discipline made them skilled at the

ancient Greek style of fighting in a phalanx formation. In the phalanx, the army worked as a unit in a close, deep formation, and made coordinated mass maneuvers. No one soldier was considered superior to another. Going into battle, a Spartan soldier, or hoplite, wore a large bronze helmet, breastplate and ankle guards, and carried a round shield made of bronze and wood, a long spear and sword. Spartan warriors were also known for their long hair and red cloaks.


In the Second Messenian War, Sparta established itself as a local power in the Peloponnesus and the rest of Greece. During the following centuries, Sparta's reputation as a land-fighting force was unequalled. At its peak around 500 BC,

Pic : Battle of Thermopylae


Sparta had some 20,000–35,000 citizens, plus numerous helots and perioikoi. The likely total of 40,000–50,000 made Sparta one of the larger Greek city-states; however, according to Thucydides, the population of Athens in 431 BC was 360,000–610,000, making it much larger.

In 480 BC a small force led by King Leonidas (about 300 full Spartiates, 700 Thespians, and 400 Thebans,


although these numbers were lessened by earlier casualties) made a legendary last stand at the Battle of Thermopylae against the massive Persian army, inflicting very high casualties on the Persian forces before finally being overwhelmed. The superior weaponry, strategy, and bronze armour of the Greek hoplites and their phalanx fighting Pic : Battle of Thermopylae

formation again proved their worth one year later when Sparta assembled its full strength and led a Greek alliance against the Persians at the battle of Plataea.


III. The Battle of Thermopylae : Last Stand of The Greeks - Military History Animated ( view the below battle in youtube ).


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5OduIDs5Pw


The decisive Greek victory at Plataea put an end to the Greco-Persian War along with Persian ambitions to expand into Europe. Even though this war was won by a pan-Greek army, credit was given to Sparta, who besides providing the leading forces at Thermopylae and Plataea, had been the de facto leader of the entire Greek expedition.


In later Classical times, Sparta along with Athens, Thebes, and Persia were the main powers fighting for supremacy in the northeastern Mediterranean. In the course of the Peloponnesian War, Sparta, a traditional land power,

Pic : Spartan Kingdom


acquired a navy which managed to overpower the previously dominant flotilla of Athens, ending the Athenian Empire. At the peak of its power in the early 4th century BC, Sparta had subdued many of the main Greek states and even invaded the Persian provinces in Anatolia (modern day Turkey), a period known as the Spartan Hegemony.


But, Sparta never fully recovered from its losses at Leuctra in 371 BC and the subsequent helot revolts. Nonetheless, it was able to continue as a regional power for over two centuries. Neither Philip II nor his son Alexander the Great attempted to conquer Sparta itself.


Even during its decline, Sparta never forgot its claim to be the "defender of Hellenism" and its Laconic wit. An anecdote has it that when Philip II sent a message to Sparta saying "If I enter Laconia, I will raze Sparta", the Spartans responded with the single, terse reply: αἴκα, "if".



IV. Spartan Women and Marriage


Spartan women had a reputation for being independent-minded, and enjoyed more freedoms and power than their counterparts throughout ancient Greece. While they played no role in the military, female Spartans often received a formal education, although separate from boys and not at boarding schools. In part to attract mates, females engaged in athletic competitions, including javelin-throwing and wrestling, and also sang and danced competitively.


As adults, Spartan women were allowed to own and manage property. Additionally, they were typically unencumbered by domestic responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning and making clothing, tasks which were handled by the helots.


Marriage was important to Spartans, as the state put pressure on people to have male children who would grow up to become citizen-warriors, and replace those who died in battle. Men who delayed marriage were publically shamed, while those who fathered multiple sons could be rewarded.


Pic : Spartan Women


In preparation for marriage, Spartan women had their heads shaved; they kept their hair short after they wed. Married couples typically lived apart, as men under 30 were required to continue residing in communal barracks. In order to see their wives during this time, husbands had to sneak away at night.


V.Historic Spartan Women


Many women played a significant role in the history of Sparta. Queen Gorgo, heiress to the throne and the wife of Leonidas I, was an influential and well-documented figure.

Herodotus records that as a small girl she advised her father Cleomenes to resist a bribe. She was later said to be responsible for decoding a warning that the Persian forces were about to invade Greece; after Spartan generals could not decode a wooden tablet covered in wax, she ordered them to clear the wax, revealing the warning.


Plutarch's Moralia contains a collection of "Sayings of Spartan Women", including a laconic quip attributed to Gorgo: when asked by a woman from Attica why Spartan women were the only women in the world who could rule men, she replied "Because we are the only women who are mothers of men".


Spartan women were also literate and numerate, a rarity in the ancient world. Furthermore, as a result of their education and the fact that they moved freely in society engaging with their fellow (male) citizens, they were notorious for speaking their minds even in public. Plato, in the middle of the fourth century, described women's curriculum in Sparta as consisting of gymnastics and mousike (music and arts). Plato goes on to praise Spartan women's ability when it came to philosophical discussion.


VI. Decline of the Spartans


In 371 B.C., Sparta suffered a catastrophic defeat at the hands of the Thebans at the Battle of Leuctra. In a further blow, late the following year, Theban general Epaminondas (c.418 B.C.-362B.C.) led an invasion into Spartan territory and oversaw the liberation of the Messenian Helots, who had been enslaved by the Spartans for several centuries. The Spartans would continue to exist, although as a second-rate power in a long period of decline. In 1834,Otto (1815-67), the king of Greece, ordered the founding of the modern-day town of Spartion the site of ancient Sparta.


VII. Why Sparta is so Important in Human History


The Battle of Thermopylae has remained a cultural icon of western civilization ever since it was fought. The battle is revisited in countless adage sand works of popular culture, such as in films (e.g.,The 300 Spartans (1962) and 300 (2007), based on the events during and close to the time of the battle), in literature, in song, in television programs, and in video games. The battle is also discussed in many articles and books on the theory and practice of warfare.

Pic : Spartan Military


Prior to the battle, the Hellenes remembered the Dorians, an ethnic distinction which applied to the Spartans, as the conquerors and displacers of the Ionians in the Peloponnesus. After the battle, Spartan culture became an inspiration and object of emulation, a phenomenon known as Laconophilia.


Laconophilia is love or admiration of Sparta and its culture or constitution. Sparta was subject of considerable admiration in its day, even in rival Athens. In ancient times "Many of the noblest and best of the Athenians always considered the Spartan state nearly as an ideal theory realised in practice." Many Greek philosophers, especially Platonists, would often describe Sparta as an ideal state, strong, brave, and free from the corruptions of commerce and money.



With the revival of classical learning in Renaissance Europe, Laconophilia re-appeared, for example in the writings of Machiavelli. The Elizabethan English constitutionalist John Aylmercompared the mixed government of Tudor England to the Spartan republic, stating that "Lacedemonia [was] the noblest and best city governed that ever was". He commended it as a model for England. The philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau contrasted Sparta favourably with Athens in his Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, arguing that its austere constitution was preferable to the more sophisticated Athenian life.


Sparta was also used as a model of austere purity by Revolutionary and Napoleonic France.



Conclusion


The Spartan army stood at the center of the Spartan state,citizens trained in the disciplines and honor of a warrior society. Subject to military drill from early manhood, the Spartans became one of the most feared military forces in the Greek world. At the height of Sparta's power – between the 6th and 4th centuries BC – it was commonly accepted by other Greeks that "one Spartan was worth several men of any other state".


Spartans secured a permanent place in the human history with Bravery and Fearlessness. Sparta was Philosphers delight of achieving and establishing close to an Ideal State.


In the War, They were like Lions and never turned their back even facing death . Their Battle of Thermopylae , in 480 BC , with a small force of 300 Spartans led by King Leonidas I , remained as a Iconic and Inspiration to many Warriors and Military Academies across the world.


So, The legend of Spartans lives forever in Human History....Inspiring Many Generations Forever....



MM Rao

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Sources :

https://www.google.com/search?q=Spartan+Quotes&rlz=1C1PRFI_enIN874IN874&sxsrf

https://www.google.com/search?q=spartans&rlz=1C1PRFI_enIN874IN874&sxsrf

https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/sparta

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sparta

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spartan_army




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