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Sparta: Uncultured Discipline
The Spartans were the most formidable warriors in all of history. They dedicated their entire lives to warfare. They were taught to endure cold, hunger, pain, their courage on the battlefield was second to none. The Spartan code was to fight hard, follow orders without question and to die rather then retreat or surrender. To achieve all this, Sparta sacrificed everything; the arts, culture, and other things that make life worth while. I believe the price was to high they went to far and shut off all that was creative and human in Sparta. A culture that can’t change or adapt doesn’t survive. This is exactly what happened , after a single major defeat in 360 B.C Sparta was no longer a significant factor in the region (Isaac Asimov, 1965, p. 178).
The original founders of "modern" Sparta were the Dorians. At around 1100 B.C these savages came from the north into what is today Greece. They attacked the Mycenean civilization thriving there and quickly defeated them. The secret behind the remarkable victories against the Myceneans was iron, the Dorians knew how to forge iron weapons which completely outclassed the bronze weaponry of the Myceneans (Carl Roebuck, 1966, p. 119).
In Mycenean times Sparta had been a important city, but after Dorian conquest it sank to insignificance. Over the next three hundred years it recovered and began to prosper. By 800 B.C it ruled over the region called Lacedonia.
Up to about 650 B.C Sparta was pretty much like every other Greek state. They had music, art and poetry. During the seventh century, a musician named Terpander came to Sparta and established himself their. He is called the "father of Greek music," he’s also supposed to off improved the lyre (a harp like instrument). The most widely known Spartan musician was Tyrtaeus. He lived during the Second Messenian War and his music inspired many Spartan soldiers to new heights of bravery (Isaac Asimov, 1965, p. 53).
But then something happened, a war with the Messinians. The First Messenian War broke out in 730 B.C, when the Spartans marched into Messenia eager for more land. After 20 long years of war the Messenians were forced to surrender. They were made into helots (slave/workers with no rights) and ruthlessly oppressed. In 685 B.C they rose in revolt, it took 17 years of brutal fighting they were finally put down (Isaac Asimov, 1965, p. 50).
These wars were the turning point of Spartan history, nearly half a century of conflict had made the Spartans very warlike. It seemed to them if they ever relaxed their guard even a bit, the helots would rise again.
The Spartans went to excessively great extremes in order to make sure this wouldn’t happen. At age seven a boy would be taken from his family and given military training., his true home was his barracks, his family, his unit. They hardened their bodies with countless drills and savage games, they were taught to steal and live of off the land. A young soldier was whipped as punishment or to make him more resistant to pain. At age 20 he was finally allowed to marry but was still in military service. Only when he was 60 was he allowed to retire from the army (National Geographic Society, 1968, p. 178).
To a Spartan warrior surrender was unthinkable, even death was preferable. To flee a soldier had to throw down his heavy shield (which would slow him down), if he died he would be carried home, with honor, on his shield. For this reason Spartan mothers instructed their sons to return form a battle "with their shield or on them" (V.M Hillyer, E.G Huey, 1966, p. 27)
One of the functions of the Spartan system was to rid the state of weaklings. At birth each child was inspected by a board of inspectors. If the child was feeble or deformed it was left on a hill side to die. Spartan women were told to exercise and keep in shape so that they could have healthy offspring.
A true Spartan’s purpose in life was war, their entire lives were centered around it. They left agriculture, manufacturing to their slave/workers, the helots. As a result their culture suffered, it was almost non-existent. For example after 600 B.C the
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Sparta, Messenian Wars, The Spartans, Second Messenian War, Battle of Thermopylae, Helots, First Messenian War, Messenia, Ancient Greece, Laconic phrase, Dorians, 300
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