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Main References: Forrest, W.G. A History of Sparta. Barrow, Robin. Sparta. Jones, A.H.M. Sparta. Frost, Frank. Greek Society.

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Presentation on theme: "Main References: Forrest, W.G. A History of Sparta. Barrow, Robin. Sparta. Jones, A.H.M. Sparta. Frost, Frank. Greek Society."— Presentation transcript:

1 Main References: Forrest, W.G. A History of Sparta. Barrow, Robin. Sparta. Jones, A.H.M. Sparta. Frost, Frank. Greek Society.

2 According to Frank Frost ( “ Sparta: an Experiment in Elitist Communism ”, in Greek Society, pp ), …… This system limited citizenship to warrior caste of Sparta -- men who owned substantial lands and who could afford to devote most of their time to military training. …… What is certain is that the events of that century sped up the process and created a militaristic and totalitarian state. Spartan serfs [slaves] -- called helots -- outnumbered Spartan warriors by more than ten to one. Some sort rigid control was needed to avoid a continual specter of helot rebellion; the Spartan system we know is evidently a reaction to this fear.

3 Boys were taken from their homes at the age of seven to begin a military training. …… Virtues stressed were unquestioned (military) obedience and courage, indifference to pain, heat, or cold. [military obedience = paramount virtue + tough life, thus, producing strong, courageous, highly disciplined soldiers + physical endurance of hardship, and unquestioned devotion to the polis].

4 A famous Spartan claim was that they asked “ not how many enemies there were, only where they were. ” At the age of 20, a soldier/warrior of Sparta would be trained for another ten years in a barrack. At 30 years old, now a full-fledged Spartan citizen might go home.

5 “ Terrible food &/or meal ”, thus, “ Now I understand why the Spartans do not fear death. ” No individual existence (body and soul) -- the ultimate in self-denial -- dedicated to the polis (complete loyalty to the polis was demanded of every Spartan). Spartans would put polis at the top priority before family, home, parents, etc.

6 Virtue = obedience (to the rule or law of the polis), courage, and participation. The Greeks admired ordered life and nowhere was life more ordered than in Sparta. Spartan slaves (helots) ’ s life was hard, because they had to; Spartan citizens ’ life was hard, too, because they chose to.

7 Plutarch ’ s story of an old man entering late to the stadium for the Olympic Games: “ All Greeks know what is right, but only the Spartans do it. ” -- that is “ courage ” [Courage to do what is right!] To the Spartans, honor = [simply] to win in battles The story of a mother to her son, who was a soldier going to battle: giving him a shield, and said [coolly], “ with it or on it! ”

8 480 B.C. Xerxes, King of Persia, led an army of 250,000 men seeking revenge for his father ’ s defeat 10 years ago [at the Battle of Marathon]. Xerxes, “ Which of the Greeks will dare resist me? ” [It seems that even if all the Greeks joined together, they would stand no chance against my army.]

9 Demartatus answered, “ …… the Spartans! ” “ in single combat, the Spartans are as good as any soldiers on earth. Fighting together, they are the best in the world. ” “ They will fight, …… And do not ask me whether they have enough to fight you, If only a thousand of them march into the battle field, then that thousand will fight you. ”

10 Xerxes laughed, “ Are the Spartans free? ” (Do you really imagine that so few would freely choose to fight?) Demartatus answered, “ Yes, … free, but they do have a master -- the law (eunomia), whatever the law demands, they do. And the law always demands the same thing: never retreat in battle, whatever the odds. Always stand your ground. Win or die. ” (Herodotus, The Histories of the Persian Wars, 7.101)

11 Plato admired Sparta (probably because he hated Athenian democracy which executed Socrates, his beloved master and friend, in 399 B.C.): 1.the idea of an equal community in which all Spartan citizens share things among themselves, and cooperate rather than compete with each other; 2.the discipline and order of the Spartan system; 3.strong sense of loyalty and duty to each other, etc.

12 In the Battle of Thermopylae (a narrow pass), “ 300 Spartans ” fought against a few thousand (250,000) Persians. The Spartans chose to die. They were killed to the last men and buried where they fell. Over their graves was written, “ Passer-by, go and tell the Spartans at home that we lie here in obedience to the law. ” The Spartans soldiers/warriors would prefer death to dishonor, and military glory to everything else.

13 Weakness: Spartans were bought up to understand only one way of life, thus, “ inflexible ” (in surviving), hence, soon after defeating Athens in 404 B.C., Macedonia in the north took over the hegemony.


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