300? A little Different; Spartan Society According to Historians

The Spartan’s were famous for their strong wills and superiority in battle. This was reflected by their way of life.
For the guys: Who would enjoy constantly watching groups of naked, oiled up, women dance and sing about sexual acts? Who out of you would enjoy having an older male sexual partner?
For the ladies: Who would enjoy living in a society that allows you to own land and learn how to read and write? Who out of you would enjoy your first sexual encounter with man to include you getting dressed in men’s clothes, getting your hair chopped off and being raped?
The Spartan’s were famous for their strong wills and superiority in battle. This was reflected by their way of life.
Viewing the movie “300” sparked my interest of the Spartan way of life. Then I proceeded to do many hours of research on this topic.
The movie “300” that recently came to theatres gave us a glimpse of what Spartan’s were but not much about how they lived.

Spartan’s were the warlords of ancient Greece. They were born in a society that encouraged physical beauty and glorified death in battle. The men of Sparta became tools of war. The women of Sparta were infamous for their independence. Some famous quotes by Spartan women are, “Come home with your shield or upon it” and “Only Spartan women give birth to men.” This could be said because only a real man would allow women to be equal. Spartan men would have not been as feared and Spartan women would have not been as free if it was not for Lycurgus.

To start this off,
To understand Spartan life you must start at the father of Sparta, Lycurgus. Lycurgus was a descendant of Hercules and was the second prince of Sparta. His father and brother died; however, his brother’s wife birthed a boy. Lycurgus declared the boy king. He left to avoid blame, should something happen to the child. Lycurgus visited other lands. He journeyed to Crete, where he learned forms of government which might be useful for Sparta. He traveled Ionia, where he learned the works of Homer. He traveled to Egypt, where he learned to separate warriors from workers. The Spartans eventually begged Lycurgus to return in letters. When Lycurgus returned he made the Sparta that is famous today. According to E-classics Lycurgus had a nature born to rule and a talent for inspiring obedience

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Next, Spartan’s had a unique way of life
The life of a Spartan was one that eliminated jealousy, crime, and arrogance.
The ownership of gold and silver was banned. Only money made from iron was allowed.
The iron was dipped in vinegar to make the metal worthless.
The people of Sparta were forced to eat in a public mess hall.
This made everyone equal in what they ate. This also prevented people from showing off their wealth to guests.

However, not everyone became a Spartan citizen. Helots provided the majority of the labor for Sparta. According to Essortment, Helots were slaves that were mainly taken from local territories, Laconia and Messina, at around the eight century. They outnumbered Spartans by seven to one causing the Spartans to be constantly on their guard. The Spartans declared war on the Helots at least once a year to make sure they knew their place. Some others who did not become Spartan citizens were unsatisfactory babies and perioikos. All Spartan babies were judged when they were born. If there were any noticeable defects the babies would be tossed into a chasm, taken to a hillside and left in the sun, or made a Helot. Perioikos, or the middle class, were Spartan men and women who did not pass a skill and fitness test at the age of eighteen. They were allowed to own property and have business dealings.

Now, I will introduce the muscle behind Sparta.
The life of a Spartan man was dedicated to the service of the state. At seven to 18 years of age, Spartan boys began their military training. They were placed in groups and were made to fend for themselves in the wild. They were not fed well and were encouraged to steal but they were whipped if caught. They were taught to be literate but it was unimportant. They marched bare foot and developed pride for their tolerance of pain.

Around the age of twelve every Spartan boy was expected to receive a young adult warrior as his lover. According to Donald Kagan of the American Historical Review, The most promising young warriors participated in the Krypteia. Krypteia’s purpose was to suppress the helots with violence. Members in their young teens were sent out into the countryside with a dagger and were instructed to “blood” themselves by killing a helot.

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From ages 18-20 they became military cadets and learned the arts of war. They had to pass a test of fitness, military ability, and leadership skills. If a cadet failed he was be denied citizenship and became a part of the middle class.
From ages 20-60 they entered the state militia. At around age 20 Spartan men received and impregnated a wife. However, the Spartan male did not form an emotional attachment. If there was any love involved it was a disgrace to show any sign of it.
At the age of 30 Spartans in the state militia were given an equal share of helot run land.
After 60 years of age Spartans were allowed to live at home with their families but still ate in the public mess halls.

Finally, The better half.
D. Spartan Women were free and powerful. Spartan women also went into training from age 7 to 18. Their training was also very rigorous. Immense importance was placed on their physical health and fit bodies. Spartan civilization allowed for women to show off their bodies anyway they wanted. Spartan women would get oiled from head to toe and dance by the river in a ritual called “ambrosial nights”. Spartan women believed that being in excellent physical condition by dancing, wrestling and performing gymnastics naked allowed them to give birth to Healthy children. Although Spartan women were very independent, their parents almost always picked them a husband. On the night of the marriage the Spartan woman would be carried away to her home where her hair would be cut and she would be dressed in men’s clothes. Her husband would sneak away from the barracks at night and ceremonially rape her. Spartan men and women often did not see each other in day light until their child was born.

Spartan women possessed a great deal of power compared to other women living in Greek city-states. They received public education. They were allowed to engage in sports. Possibly the most important, they had opinions and people listened to them.
Observers were shocked at the ferociousness of a Spartan woman’s tongue. Spartan men were ruled by their women. Spartan women were similar to queen ants. They were breeding machines. According to the website “Women in the Ancient World”, Spartan women were breeding machines whose purpose was to produce the male soldiers that the state needed to defend itself. It was not uncommon for a Spartan woman to have children from more then one man.

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They had a lot of responsibility.
Spartan men would spend their time training to fight and living in the barracks. This allowed for women to be responsible for the financial burdens of the family.
Sometimes a Spartan woman would have a few men that considered her their wife because she produced children for them. The woman was in charge of these relationships.
Since women could own property. Daughters inherited land along with sons.

The Spartans made such an impact in history that they are still admired in our time. The man who started this was the father of Sparta, Lycurgus. He changed Sparta from just another Greek city-state into a war machine that empowered women. Since the majority of working age men were soldiers as a profession, the Spartans kept the Helots as their slaves to do the manual labor and the men and women who did not pass their tests provided the middle class labor. Spartan Men spent the majority of their lives living in barracks with other men and after 20 years of age they served in the militia until they were 60. Spartan Women had similar training to men when they were younger but did not serve in the militia. Once they were 18 they got married, produced babies, and controlled the finances of Sparta.
Spartans were incredibly unique and groundbreaking in their time. No other Greek state rivaled their military might. The Spartan people were a model of discipline and looked down upon the way other Greeks lived. An Athenian once told a Spartan that the Spartan people were Ignorant. “What you say is true,” the Spartan replied “We have learned none of you evil ways.”

If you were a fan of the movie, or were just curious about Spartans, I hope you enjoyed my presentation.