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 import of luxury goods such as ivory or spices ceased.
Obviously the taste for such indulgences was denied when the Spartans became
warriors. They disliked trade so much that instead of coins they used heavy iron
rods for money. These rods were difficult to carry and discouraged commerce and
idle shopping (National Geographic Society, 1968, p.