A section from
‘A Jedi shall not know hatred, nor fear… nor love.’ from Star Wars Episode II
Including ‘Sayings of Spartans’
NOTE: Much of what I write here about Spartan life revolves around Sparta’s image as we hold it in popular culture - austere, stoic, laconic, tough, hard-as-nails. A lot is sourced from the writings of Xenophon.
Equality of the sexes
Physical aptitude was considered equally important for men and women. The women were encouraged to develop strength and stamina through competition much like the males. The primary motive was to strengthen the Spartan gene pool over the long-term.
Spartan children and young adults were under the authority of an elder ‘Spartiate’ almost every waking hour - the motive being constant learning of the culture and strict enforcement of discipline. It was this rigid regimental lifestyle that cemented this small city-states fearsome reputation as the foremost in all matters martial.
Children were made to walk around barefoot so that their callused soles would be adept at running over rocky Mediterranean terrain. Spartan clothing was the same in winter and summer so that neither cold nor heat would be of much concern once they became accustomed. Meals were taken in a common mess hall and quantities were measured to ensure that it neither left any Spartan hungry, nor sluggish.
While homosexuality was prevalent in the Greek Mediterranean, molestation and underage sex was considered strictly taboo by Lycurgus the legendary Spartan Lawgiver.
In order to save Sparta from social decay that Lycurgus saw in other Greek states, he enacted a great deal of societal reforms. Land was redistributed so that it was equally held by Spartiates. Gold and silver were contraband, and iron remained the only currency - that too severely devalued that even a large volume of it represented very little money. Instead Lycurgus effectively depressed capitalistic pursuits in the minds of the people and inspired them to work for the good of Spartan society.
Ironically just as the individualism of the Spartans was depressed on a micro scale by strict discipline and subservience to society, the city state was able to remain fiercely independent and recalcitrant as a political force because of her uniquely stoic and unperturbed (by luxuries) nature. No doubt Sparta’s military prowess contributed significantly to this power.
Sayings of Spartans: Plutarch
When Leonidas’ wife Gorgo asks what she should do if he doesn’t return, he replies “Marry a good man and have good children”
- Plutarch, Sayings of Spartan Women.
When the Spartan - Dienekes is told that the Persian arrows would be so many as to block out all sunlight he retorts with – “So much the better, then we shall fight our battle in the shade.”
- Herodotus, Histories.
When asked how anyone could rule the citizens safely without having a bodyguard, King Agasicles said: “By ruling then in the way that fathers do their sons.’
When someone inquired of King Agesilaus what children should learn, he said: “What they will also use when they become men.”
Xerxes wrote to Leonidas: “Deliver up yours arms.”
“Come and take them.” Leonidas wrote back.
When a soldier told Leonidas: “They are close to us.” He replied “Then we are close to them.”
Also at FactBehindFiction.com
References and Further Reading
-Plutarch: On Sparta (Penguin Classics)
-Herodotus: The Histories
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