Spartanske krigere

Spartanske krigere


Sparta

Sparta (Dorisk græsk: Σπάρτα, Spártā Loft på græsk: Σπάρτη, Spártē) var en fremtrædende bystat i Laconia, i det antikke Grækenland. I antikken var bystaten kendt som Lacedemon (Λακεδαίμων, Lakedaímōn), mens navnet Sparta refererede til dens hovedopgør på bredden af ​​Eurotas-floden i Laconia, i det sydøstlige Peloponnes. [1] Omkring 650 fvt. Steg den til at blive den dominerende militære landmagt i det antikke Grækenland.

I betragtning af sin militære forrang blev Sparta anerkendt som den førende styrke i det forenede græske militær under de græsk-persiske krige i rivalisering med den stigende flådemagt i Athen. [2] Sparta var Athens hovedfjende under den peloponnesiske krig (mellem 431 og 404 fvt.), [3] hvorfra den sejrede. Det afgørende slag ved Leuctra i 371 fvt sluttede det spartanske hegemoni, selvom bystaten fastholdt sin politiske uafhængighed indtil den romerske erobring af Grækenland i 146 fvt. Efter delingen af ​​Romerriget gennemgik Sparta en lang periode med tilbagegang, især i middelalderen, da mange af dens borgere flyttede til Mystras. Moderne Sparta er hovedstaden i den sydgræske region Laconia og et center for forarbejdning af citrus og oliven.

Sparta var unik i det antikke Grækenland for sit sociale system og forfatning, som angiveligt blev indført af den semi-mytiske lovgiver Lycurgus. Hans love konfigurerede det spartanske samfund til at maksimere militær færdighed for enhver pris og fokuserede alle sociale institutioner på militær træning og fysisk udvikling. Indbyggerne i Sparta blev lagdelt som Spartiater (borgere med fulde rettigheder), mothakes (gratis ikke-spartiatfolk nedstammer fra spartanere), perioikoi (gratis ikke-spartiater) og helots (statsejede slaver ikke-spartanske lokalbefolkning). Spartiale mænd gennemgik det strenge agoge træningsplan, og spartanske falanks brigader blev bredt anset for at være blandt de bedste i kamp. Spartanske kvinder nød betydeligt flere rettigheder end andre steder i den klassiske antik.

Sparta var ofte fascineret i sin egen tid såvel som i den vestlige kultur efter genoplivning af klassisk læring. Beundringen af ​​Sparta er kendt som laconophilia. Bertrand Russell skrev:

Sparta havde en dobbelt effekt på græsk tanke: gennem virkeligheden og gennem myten. Virkeligheden gjorde det muligt for spartanerne at besejre Athen i krig, myten påvirkede Platons politiske teori og utallige efterfølgende forfatteres. [De] idealer, som det favoriserer, havde en stor rolle i at indramme Rousseaus, Nietzsches og nationalsocialismens doktriner. [4]


Var spartanerne virkelig de største krigere nogensinde?

Det vil ikke overraske nogen, at 300 film er ikke historisk nøjagtige fremstillinger af spartanerne, men filmene støtter sig dog på en eksisterende myte. Vi voksede alle op med at tænke på spartanerne som de ultimative militære badasses. Var dette sandt?

De spartanske triumfer

Ingen kunne benægte, at spartanerne var en af ​​de mest imponerende organiserede militaristiske kulturer i historien. Deres krigsstil, en otte person dyb, urokkelig mur af skjolde og spyd, brød næsten alle, der gik imod dem. Deres intense træning, der startede ved otte og officielt varede ti år - og uofficielt aldrig stoppede - skabte en absolut disciplin. Deres rolle i slaget ved Thermopylae i 480 f.Kr. anerkendes med rette som et af historiens vendepunkter.

På nogle måder får de for lidt kredit. De var ikke det skyldløse, udifferentierede afstumpede instrument, de så ofte er skabt til at være. De havde forskellige kampstyrker - hære, flåder og elitestyrker. Som alle succesrige militærer ansatte og promoverede de listige taktikere.

Spartanere var blandt de første kampstyrker, der erkendte vigtigheden af ​​spycraft og infiltration. Kryptea, en specialuddannet enhed, fungerede som noget mellem et spionagentur og et hemmeligt politi og holdt øje med de erobrede områder og tropperne derhjemme. Det spartanske imperium var, selv om det var lille i forhold til verdens imperier, stort i forhold til deres naboer. De holdt det i hundredvis af år. Dette var ikke en ulykke.

Samfundet i baggrunden

Det er nu almindeligt kendt, at spartanerne var et slaveejet samfund. Selvom et tab for perserne ville have betydet slaveri for spartanerne, kunne det have betydet frihed for de erobrede områder omkring Sparta. Det, der ikke ofte diskuteres, er måden at være et slaveejersamfund, der formede Sparta. Fra næsten begyndelsen var slaverne eller heloterne i undertal i forhold til spartanerne.

Alle slaveejende samfund frygter et slaveoprør. Spartanerne havde mere at frygte end de fleste. Den samordnede militarisme i deres samfund var ikke et udtryk for atletisk dygtighed eller et ideal om styrke. Det var den måde, de holdt sig i live. Jo mere Sparta ekspanderede, desto mindre havde de råd til at svigte deres vagt. Sparta var, ligesom mange kulturer med et hemmeligt politi, en paranoia -kultur.

Under et helotopstand sendte Athen tropper for at hjælpe Sparta med at nedlægge oprøret. Spartanerne sendte athenerne til pakning. De ville ikke have, at athenske værdier blev spredt blandt den spartanske befolkning, og især helot -befolkningen. I dag fremstilles spartanerne som en frihedselskende kultur-også selvom de kun værdsatte deres egen frihed. I sandhed blev deres handlinger og tanker holdt på linje af regeringen og loven.

Hvilket ikke vil sige, at spartanerne ikke nød nogen frihed. Deres kvinder nød den største frihed i den antikke græske kultur og blev opfordret til at læse, skrive, eje jord, tale når det kom til politik og dyrke sport. Den øverste del af krigsmænd, der havde overlevet kampe og opnået rang og magt, blev hædret og givet en fri hånd.

Den mørke side ved denne frie hånd er eksemplificeret ved ikke mindre end en af ​​de sagnomspundne 300. Aristodemus var en af ​​krigerne ved Thermopylae. Han og en anden soldat kom ned med øjeninfektioner i begyndelsen af ​​kampen. Leonidas, deres konge og kommandør, beordrede dem til at gå hjem.

Den anden kriger, på den sidste kampdag, fik en slave til at guide ham til feltet. I mellemtiden adlød Aristodemus ordrer og gik hjem. Han blev stemplet som en & quottrembler, & quot og led skæbnen for enhver, der blev anset for at mangle mod. Han fik syede lapper på sin kappe og lod alle vide, at han var en kujon. Alle hans bekendte skulle ignorere ham. Hvis nogen beordrede ham ude af vejen ved offentlige begivenheder, måtte han adlyde, uanset hvem de var.

Spartanerne var tidlige eugenikere, og da Aristodemus havde bevist, at hans gener var defekte, fik hans døtre ikke længere lov til at gifte sig.

Et år senere, da spartanerne stod over for en anden indkommende styrke af persere, fik Aristodemus lov til at kæmpe og løb ivrigt til hans død. Hans vilje til at dø blev noteret, hans status som kujon blev officielt ophævet, og hans børn blev ikke længere forbudt fra avl. Enten ville spartanske soldater kæmpe til døden, eller også ville det spartanske samfund få dem til at ønske, at de havde.

Intet af dette negerer de imponerende spartanske militære sejre, men det sætter dem i en sammenhæng. Når vi forestiller os "krigskulturer" eller "militaristiske samfund", repræsenteres de ofte for os som kulturer med fokus på ære, tapperhed, frihed eller endda bare kampens ophidselse. Det er den måde, mange ser spartanerne på, og sandsynligvis den måde, spartanerne så sig selv på - men idealisme var ikke det, der skabte deres samfund. Deres militær var en praktisk løsning på et problem. Til sidst blev det den eneste løsning på det problem.

Og selvom individuelle krigere blev lært og troet, at mod var den ultimative dyd, blev deres idealisme berammet af mere end bare moral. Hver soldat vidste, at han kunne risikere sit liv og have alt, eller beholde det og ikke have noget. Det var ikke døden før vanære. Det var døden før uendeligt misbrug og foragt.

Spartanerne var ikke alene ved Thermopylae

Sig til spartanerne, en fremmed der går forbi

At vi her lyder over for deres love.

Dette digt af Simonides fra Ceos mindes det mest berømte slag i vestlig historie. Den angribende persiske hær, tvunget til et kvælningspunkt, blev holdt i skak af en styrke på kun 300 spartanere. Og et par hundrede af deres slaver. Og omkring tusind andre grækere fra forskellige bystater. Der var også et søslag i nærheden for at forhindre perserne i blot at sige & quotscrew it & quot og sejle rundt om den spartanske styrke.

Den persiske invasion fandt sted på et upraktisk tidspunkt for spartanerne. OL var i gang, samt en religiøs festival. Hvis der var en ting, som spartanerne tog lige så alvorligt som deres kampe, var det deres religion. De kunne ikke opgive festlighederne, men alle, inklusive de andre græske bystater, kendte den trussel, perserne udgjorde. Til sidst førte Leonidas en elitegruppe på 300 spartanere ud for at kæmpe. (Leonidas kunne have følt sig særligt presset til at gå, da der var rygter om, at han dræbte den tidligere konge i Sparta og giftede sig med denne konges datter for at overtage tronen.) Andre bystater bidrog med soldater og den samlede styrke ved Thermopylae var 5000.

Efter et par dages kampe, hvor grækerne holdt passet, fandt perserne en gedesti langs bakkerne, der ville tillade dem at flanke grækerne. Det er ikke klart, om en forræder opgav grækerne, eller om perserne simpelthen fandt det, mens de spejdede området. (Vi må dog gerne bebrejde gederne.)

Græske løbere stationeret på stien advarede Leonidas, og han beordrede de fleste af de andre soldater hjem. Der var ingen tvivl om, at spartanerne ville blive. De meldte også venligt frivilligt deres egne slaver. Det, der er overraskende, er det faktum, at mindst tusind andre grækere valgte at blive, vel vidende at de skulle blive massakreret. Spartanerne ledede kræfterne ved Thermopylae, og deres tapperhed er ikke i tvivl. De var ikke de eneste soldater, der modigt blev. Ikke alene var spartanerne de eneste, der døde ved Thermopylae - de var ikke engang flertallet. De havde dog den bedste PR.

De spartanske nederlag

Selv i deres egen tid blev spartanerne æret for deres kampevner. Deres præstationer ved Thermopylae blev en nutidig myte, og nogle historikere mener dog, at det samlede hele Grækenland til med succes at modstå de persiske overgreb. Når det er sagt, var de ikke ubesejrede.

Det mest berygtede spartanske nederlag var under den peloponnesiske krig, en årtier lang krig mellem Athen og Sparta, der startede ikke længe efter afslutningen af ​​den persiske trussel. Nederlaget chokerede hele Grækenland, herunder Athen og Sparta, fordi spartanerne ikke lige blev slået. De overgav sig.

Det var slaget ved Sphacteria i 425 f.Kr. Sphacteria var en lille ø, teknisk set i Spartas eget område, hvor en spartansk styrke blev isoleret, efter at et større slag ikke gik deres vej. Athenerne belejrede spartanerne, der havde læet sig mod noget terræn ved en klippe, overøst dem med pile og til sidst omgivet dem. De 120 spartanere opgav deres våben og overgav sig.

Selv på det tidspunkt var det uhørt for en spartaner at overgive sig. Da han blev spurgt om det, bebrejdede en spartaner athenerne for at angribe dem med pile, som han kaldte & quotspindles, & quot i stedet for & quotmasculine våben. & Quot Med andre ord, & quot De var så skæve at vi måtte overgive os til dem. knusende, at Sparta stævnede for fred. Athenerne, fulde af tillid, lod fredssamtalerne bryde sammen - hvilket de må have fortrudt, da de tabte krigen i 404 f.Kr. (Det fortæller, at Sparta faktisk tog til Persien for at få penge til at rejse flåden af ​​skibe, som de havde brug for for at besejre Athen.)

En anden gruppe, der skulle sparke spartanerne rundt, var det berømte Theben -band. Theben leverede sine egne 300 supersoldater, selvom de aldrig har været genstand for en film, muligvis fordi de alle var kærester. Det er også muligt, at det hellige band aldrig fik deres historier på film, fordi spartanerne på det tidspunkt, de blev dannet, allerede havde taget nogle hits. Thebans dannede bandet lige efter at de havde sparket spartanerne ud af deres hovedstad. The Sacred Band vandt tre forskellige kampe mod spartanske styrker.

I et af kampene, i 378 f.Kr., vandt de simpelthen ved at nægte at følge spartanerne på ugunstig grund. Spartanerne havde brudt ydre blokader foran Theben, og Thebanske hær trak sig tilbage bag de indre vægge. Da spartanerne anklagede, i håb om at få Thebanerne til at bryde rækker, blev Thebans beordret til at indtage en hvilestilling og kaldte den spartanske bluff. Spartanerne forlod og klagede derefter forudsigeligt over, at de skulle betragtes som kampens vindere, fordi Thebans ikke havde kæmpet dem rigtigt.

Det hellige band kæmpede direkte mod spartanerne ved to forskellige lejligheder og var i undertal hver gang. I Slaget ved Tegyra, der var i undertal på to til en, dræbte de de spartanske kommandanter og anklagede rækken så dristigt, at spartanerne åbnede en kanal, forudsat at Thebanerne ville bruge den til at flygte. I stedet angreb de indefra og dirigerede de spartanske tropper. I slaget ved Leuctra lavede Thebanske kavaleri kort arbejde med de spartanske jordstyrker, på trods af at thebanerne beordrede en styrke på 6000 til spartanerne og#x27 10.000.

I sidste ende kom Spartans ' største nederlag i hænderne på deres egne slaver. De militære nederlag tog deres vej på Sparta, det samme gjorde spartanerne ' langsom ophobning af fjender. Til sidst skete den katastrofe, som spartanerne havde bygget deres kultur for at undgå, og heloterne gjorde med succes oprør. Sparta blev bygget på slaveri, og med de fleste af sine slaver var den forarmet. Det opløstes i en slags Disneyland, hvor der blev udført traditionelle spartanske ritualer for penge foran besøgende. Den sidste konge døde i forsøget på at skaffe penge til byen ved at kæmpe som lejesoldat.

Intet land falder yndefuldt, og ingen enhed kan leve op til sin myte. Myten er at tage en inspirerende historie og gøre den til en perfekt historie. Den spartanske legende, legenden om supersoldaterne, mens den var baseret på virkeligheden, var ikke helt anvendelig, selv i spartanernes egen tid. Myten om 300, Thermopylae og Sparta som en kultur af perfekte krigere har værdi. Spartas virkelighed som et ufuldkommen samfund gør det også.


Sparta: Warriors & Historie

Spartanerne var de mest formidable krigere i hele historien. De dedikerede hele deres liv til krigsførelse. De blev lært at udholde kulde, sult, smerte deres mod på slagmarken var uden sidestykke. Den spartanske kode var at kæmpe hårdt, følge ordrer uden spørgsmål og dø snarere end at trække sig tilbage eller overgive sig. For at opnå alt dette ofrede Sparta alt kunst, kultur og andre ting, der gør livet værd. Jeg tror, ​​at prisen var for høj, de gik for langt og lukkede for alt det kreative og menneskelige i Sparta. En kultur, der ikke kan ændre sig eller tilpasse sig, overlever ikke. Det er præcis det, der skete, efter et enkelt stort nederlag i 360 f.Kr. Sparta ikke længere var en væsentlig faktor i regionen (Isaac Asimov, 1965, s. 178).

De oprindelige grundlæggere af “modern ” Sparta var dorianerne. Omkring 1100 f.Kr. disse vilde kom fra nord til det, der i dag er Grækenland. De angreb den mykenske civilisation der trives der og besejrede dem hurtigt. Hemmeligheden bag de bemærkelsesværdige sejre mod mykenerne var jern, dorianerne vidste, hvordan man smed jernvåben, der fuldstændig udklassede mykeanernes bronzevåben (Carl Roebuck, 1966, s. 119).

I mykensk tid havde Sparta været en vigtig by, men efter erobring af Dorian sank den til ubetydelighed. I løbet af de næste tre hundrede år kom det sig og begyndte at blomstre. I 800 f.Kr. regerede den over regionen kaldet Lacedonia.

Op til omkring 650 f.Kr. var Sparta stort set som enhver anden græsk stat. De havde musik, kunst og poesi. I løbet af det syvende århundrede kom en musiker ved navn Terpander til Sparta og etablerede sig der. Han kaldes “far til græsk musik, og han skulle også forbedre lyren (et harpeagtigt instrument). Den mest kendte spartanske musiker var Tyrtaeus. Han levede under den anden messenske krig, og hans musik inspirerede mange spartanske soldater til nye højder i tapperhed (Isaac Asimov, 1965, s. 53).

Men så skete der noget, en krig med messinerne. Den første messiske krig brød ud i 730 f.Kr., da spartanerne marcherede ind i Messenia og var ivrige efter mere land. Efter 20 lange krigsår blev messerneerne tvunget til at overgive sig. De blev gjort til heloter (slave/arbejdere uden rettigheder) og hensynsløst undertrykt. I 685 f.Kr. rejste de sig i oprør, det tog 17 års brutale kampe, de blev endelig nedlagt (Isaac Asimov, 1965, s. 50).

Disse krige var vendepunktet i den spartanske historie næsten et halvt århundrede med konflikt havde gjort spartanerne meget krigeriske. Det forekom dem, hvis de nogensinde slækkede deres vagt endnu en smule, ville heloterne rejse sig igen.

Spartanerne gik til alt for store ekstremer for at sikre, at dette ikke ville ske. I en alder af syv blev en dreng taget fra sin familie og fik militær uddannelse., Hans sande hjem var hans kaserne, hans familie, hans enhed. De hærder deres kroppe med utallige øvelser og vildspil, de blev lært at stjæle og leve af jorden. En ung soldat blev pisket som straf eller for at gøre ham mere modstandsdygtig over for smerter. I en alder af 20 fik han endelig lov til at gifte sig, men var stadig i militærtjeneste. Først da han var 60 år fik han lov til at trække sig tilbage fra hæren (National Geographic Society, 1968, s. 178).

Til en spartansk kriger var overgivelse utænkelig, selv døden var at foretrække. For at flygte måtte en soldat smide sit tunge skjold ned (hvilket ville bremse ham), hvis han døde, ville han blive båret hjem med ære på sit skjold. Af denne grund instruerede spartanske mødre deres sønner om at vende tilbage fra en kamp “ med deres skjold eller på dem ” (V.M Hillyer, E.G Huey, 1966, s. 27)

En af funktionerne i det spartanske system var at befri tilstanden for svækkelser. Ved fødslen blev hvert barn inspiceret af en bestyrelse af inspektører. Hvis barnet var svagt eller deformeret, blev det efterladt på en bakkeside for at dø. Spartanske kvinder blev bedt om at dyrke motion og holde sig i form, så de kunne få sunde afkom.

Et sandt spartansk formål med livet var krig, hele deres liv var centreret omkring det. De overlod landbruget, fremstillede til deres slave/arbejdere, heloterne. Som følge heraf led deres kultur, den var næsten ikkeeksisterende. For eksempel efter 600 f.Kr. ophørte importen af ​​luksusvarer som elfenben eller krydderier. Det er klart, at smagen for sådanne aflad blev nægtet, da spartanerne blev krigere. De kunne ikke lide handel så meget, at de i stedet for mønter brugte tunge jernstænger til penge. Disse stænger var svære at bære og afskrækkede handel og tomgangshandel (National Geographic Society, 1968, s. 177).

Maden på en typisk spartansk kaserne var designet til at fylde en person og holde ham i live, men intet mere. En gammel historie fortæller historien om to udenforstående, der blev inviteret til at spise i en spartansk kaserne. En af de to tog en slurk af den sorte bouillon fra en skål og lagde sin ske, hviskede “ nu ved jeg, hvorfor spartanerne ikke frygter døden ” (Isaac Asimov, 1965, s. 52)

Selv normal samtale stoppede (de fleste grækere kan lide at tale, fra oldtiden til i dag). Spartanerne talte meget kort og præcist. De var alle forretninger. Faktisk betyder ordet “laconic ” (form Laconia, et andet ord for Sparta) at tale kortfattet (Isaac Asimov, 1965, s. 53).

Et stykke tid virkede det som om alle disse ofre var værd. Spartanerne var faktisk imponerende krigere, selv når de var i undertal. I 480 f.Kr. holdt en styrke på 300 spartanere Thermopylae, en vital gennemgang under krigen mod Persien. De holdt passet i to dage, indtil en forræder viste perserne en anden vej igennem. Spartanerne nægtede at trække sig tilbage og kæmpede til den bitre ende, indtil alle blev dræbt. Men de holdt perserne væk længe nok til, at de resterende græske hære kunne flygte (V.M Hillyer, E.G Huey, 1966, s. 27). Desværre er militær styrke aldrig nok til at holde en kultur i gang, andre ting er afgørende, såsom musik eller litteratur. På samme tid i historien var de andre græske folk meget aktive inden for kunst, videnskab og filosofi. Især Athen var i det ’s “Guldalder. ” Under ledelse af Pericles nåede Athen højden af ​​dets magt og ære.

I denne tidsalder blev Parthenon bygget, det er måske den mest perfekte struktur, der nogensinde er konstrueret og let den mest berømte. Phidias, geniet bag Parthenon skåret også Zeus -statuen i Olympia., Der var placeret på stadion, hvor de olympiske lege (en anden græsk bedrift) blev afholdt. Denne statue blev opført af senere grækere som et af de syv vidundere i verden. Befolkningen i Athen var gode billedhuggere og skabte mange fine statuer af mennesker, dyr og genstande (Isaac Asimov, 1965, s. 133).

Athenerne producerede uden tvivl de vigtigste litterære figurer mellem Homer og Shakespeares tid. Disse tre mænd Aiskylos, Sofokles og Euripides var med til at fremme dramaets kunst. De skulle først bruge kostumer, masker, rekvisitter og andre ting for at gøre skuespillere mere synlige for publikum. Sammen producerede disse forfattere over 280 skuespil, hvoraf nogle overlever i dag (Isaac Asimov, 1965, s. 134).

Videnskab var et andet felt, hvor “normale ” grækere udmærkede sig. Mænd som Anaxagoras mente, at stjernerne ikke var mere specielle eller magiske end jorden var. Solen, stjernerne og planeterne sagde han var flammende klipper. Lecippus, der levede omkring 450 f.Kr. formodes at være den første, der antydede, at stof ikke var sammensat af stoffer, der kunne deles uendeligt, men i stedet bestod af små partikler (atomer). Hippokrates blev født i 460 f.Kr. på en ø ud for Lilleasiens kyst. Han var den tidligste person til at etablere en rimelig teori om medicin, en der ikke var afhængig af dæmoner eller ånder. Af denne grund kalder mange ham medicinens far. ” I dag er “Hippocratic Eed ” stadig taget af medicinstuderende efter deres uddannelse (Isaac Asimov, 1965, s. 135).

Mange berømte gamle filosoffer var græske, disse mennesker forsøgte at lære, hvordan mennesker skulle føre deres liv. Nemmest den mest kendte er Sokrates, der levede under “Guldalderen ” i Athen. Sokrates mente, at vi hver især havde en samvittighed, der fortæller os, hvad der er rigtigt og forkert. Han betragtes af mange som den klogeste mand, der nogensinde har levet. Vi skylder meget disse gamle grækere, der grundlagde grundlaget for så meget, som vi kender i dag.

Husk på, at mens grækerne gennemførte alt dette, var byen Sparta selv på højden af ​​sin magt meget kedelig og manglede mure. En historiker bemærkede, at voldene (vægge) er hendes mænd. ” Det var dybest set en samling af fem landsbyer, som så ynkelige ud i forhold til Athen (National Geographic Society, 1968, s. 177). I dag er der lidt tilbage af Sparta.

Sparta faldt endelig efter en kamp mod de kombinerede styrker i Athen og Theben i 362 f.Kr. Dette nederlag ødelagde Spartas hære og efterlod hende udsat. Epaninondas, lederen af ​​Thebean -hæren vandt en total sejr og var snart ved porten til Sparta. Efter dette tab ville Sparta aldrig vende tilbage til sit tidligere jeg (Isaac Asimov, 1965, s. 178).

For at opnå militær herlighed opgav spartanerne næsten alt. Senere beundrede grækere fra andre bystater den spartanske livsstil, fordi det virkede så ædelt. De tog fejl af at tænke på denne måde, til kunst, musik, litteratur og andre sådanne sysler skænkede de ingenting.

Hun havde kun en grusom, umenneskelig livsstil at tilbyde, afhængig af et barbarisk slaveri af de fleste i hendes befolkning, med kun en slags blindt dyremod som en dyd. Inden længe var den spartanske livsform mere vis end substans, Sparta virkede stærk, så længe hun sejrede, men andre stater kunne overleve nederlag og rejse sig igen. Efter et enkelt stort nederlag (mod Theben) mistede Sparta sit herredømme over Grækenland. Dette katastrofale tab afslørede den spartanske svindel og bortskaffede hende.

– Asimov, Issac. (1965). Grækerne Et stort eventyr. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company

– Hillyer V.M, E.G Huey. (1966). Ancient World 500 BC – 500 AD. New York: Meredith Press

– National Georgraphic Society. (1968). Grækenland og Rom Builders of Our World. Washington D.C: Forfatter

– Roebuck, Carl. (1966). Verden i oldtiden. New York: Charles Scribner ’s Sons

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Underviser og freelance skribent. Naturfagslærer og elsker af essays. Artikel senest gennemgået: 2020 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2021 | Creative Commons 4.0


Den spartanske måde: tankegangen og taktikken for en kampklar kriger

Velkommen tilbage til vores serie om The Spartan Way, der søger at belyse de lektioner, de gamle spartanere kan lære moderne mænd - ikke i deres detaljer, men i generelle principper der ligger nedenunder og stadig kan udvindes og anvendes i dag.

På sit højeste var den spartanske hær den mest dominerende og frygtede, militære styrke i det antikke Grækenland, og dens dygtighed var bygget på den enestående mentalitet og strategi, den bragte til krigens kunst.

I denne sidste del af Spartan Way -serien tager vi en ekspansiv, inspirerende og grundigt fascinerende rundvisning i den essentielle tankegang og taktik, der gjorde det muligt for disse krigere at kæmpe hårdt og komme ud af sejren.

Der er magt i udseende

Spartanske mænd havde ikke kun færdigheder og træning til at bakke op om deres ry som formidable krigere, de forstærkede dette ry — og deres effektivitet på slagmarken — ved at dyrke et ydre udseende, der matchede deres indre dygtighed.

Spartanerne terroriserede deres fjende, før de overhovedet kom inden for spydens længde. Da de ventede på kommandoen om at rykke frem, stod de lige og stabile i dannelsen, og alt fra deres tøj til deres udstyr skræddersyede styrke, disciplin og vildskab.

Spartanske krigere var klædt i en skarlagen tunika og kappe (kasseret før kamp), for, fortæller Xenophon, at farven menes at have "den mindste lighed med dametøj og at være mest egnet til krig." Sidstnævnte erklæring gav anledning til den apokryfe idé om, at rødt også blev valgt, fordi det skjulte blod bedre og#8212 skjulte et sår og en svaghed for fjenden.

Over sin tunika og hængt fra armen bar den spartanske hoplit rustning og et skjold, der var blevet poleret til en strålende glans og glimtede i solen.

Spartanske mænd bar deres hår langt — en stil, der engang havde været almindelig i hele Grækenland, men som Lacedaemonians holdt fast i, efter at andre bystater havde skiftet til kortere snit. For spartanerne symboliserede langt hår at være en fri mand, og de troede, siger Plutarch, "at det gjorde den smukkere mere smuk og den grimme mere skræmmende." Spartanerne holdt sig velplejede, flettede ofte disse lange låse og holdt også deres skæg pænt trimmet.

På toppen af ​​deres hoveder var placeret et kroneudstyr, som fortælleren om Steven Pressfields Porte af ild (et værk af historisk fiktion, der er præcist i mange detaljer) beskriver det som "det mest frygtelige af alle":

“Tilføjelse til terrorteatret præsenteret af den græske falanks. . . var de græske hjelmers blanke, udtryksløse ansigter med deres bronze -næse tykke som en mands tommelfinger, deres flammende kindstykker og de uhellige huller i deres øjeslisser, der dækkede hele ansigtet og udsendte fjenden den fornemmelse, at han stod over for ikke skabninger af kød som ham selv, men en frygtelig usårlig maskine, ubarmhjertig og uudslukkelig. ”

Den spartanske hjelms formidable udseende blev yderligere forstærket af den kendsgerning, at den "blev overspændt med en høj hestehårskam, der som den skælvede og kvælede i vinden ikke kun skabte indtryk af skræmmende højde og statur, men lånte et aspekt af frygt, som ikke kan være kommunikeres i ord, men skal ses for at blive forstået. ”

Den spartanske krigers tøj og udstyr fungerede til sin fordel på to måder: 1) det fik soldaten selv til at føle sig mere vild, mere uovervindelig, mere selvsikker og 2) det skræmte de levende dagslys ud af sin fjende.

Kraften i spartanernes udseende blødgjorde fjendens linje, før de overhovedet ramte den og tilføjede et ry for styrke, der undertiden afskrækkede fjender fra overhovedet at gå i kamp mod dem.

Udfør altid et ritual før slaget

Hold dine mænd optaget. Hvis der ikke er noget arbejde, gør det op, for når soldater har tid til at tale, bliver deres snak til frygt. Action på den anden side skaber appetit på mere handling. ” —Porte af ild

I Herodotos Historier, skriver han, at i løbet af slaget ved Thermopylae sendte kong Xerxes, hersker over det persiske imperium, "en monteret spejder for at se, hvor mange [spartanere] der var, og hvad de lavede." Hvad observerede spejderen? "Han så nogle af mændene dyrke nøgen og andre kæmme håret."

Før kamp holdt spartanske krigere deres nerver i skak ved at have travlt med forskellige opgaver og fysiske ritualer. I deres ungdom havde de husket vers om digteren Tyrtaeus, som de reciterede for sig selv og sang og sang, da de marcherede på kampagne. I dagene før kamp dyrkede de motion før morgenmaden, havde yderligere militær instruktion og træning efter at have spist og deltog i motion og atletiske konkurrencer om eftermiddagen. I hvilestunder klædte og plejede mændene deres hår og polerede messingens ydre af deres skjolde.

Da tiden var inde til at marchere mod fjenden, gav fløjtespil spartanerne mulighed for perfekt at holde tiden, og som et resultat af denne musik såvel som deres andre spændingsreducerende, modbøjelige ritualer avancerede de til fjenden i et langsomt, stabilt optog, som kun øgede den intimideringsfaktor, der lige er beskrevet ovenfor.

En kriger kan være både hård og ærbødig

Vi er tilbøjelige til at betragte spartanerne som glubske, hanekrigere. Men selvom ingen kampstyrke lettere kunne undskyldes for udelukkende at stole på deres egen styrke og evner, var spartanerne faktisk akut klar over og ydmyget af eksistensen af ​​kræfter, der var større end dem selv.

Spartanerne var et yderst ærbødigt folk. “From an early age,” Paul Rahe writes, they were “imbued with a fear of the gods so powerful that it distinguished them from their fellow Greeks.” Indeed, piety served as “the foundation of Spartan morale.”

Before embarking on a campaign, every morning while on it, and immediately preceding battle, oracles were consulted, sacrifices were made, and omens were examined. The sanction, or censure, of the gods was sought for every decision.

So too, religious obligation came even before martial duty. The Spartans delayed sending a deployment to the Battle of Marathon because the call came in the middle of a religious festival. For the same reason, Leonidas sent only a small advance guard to Thermopylae instead of Lacedaemon’s main force.

The reverence of the Spartans could be called superstition, but it could also be called humility — an awareness of, and respect for, the forces of fate that ultimately, no matter one’s skill and preparation, can influence the outcome of an endeavor and cannot be wholly controlled.

Endurance Is the Foundation of Strength

In phalanx warfare, agility, cleverness, and speed were not as important as grit, fortitude, and stamina — sheer endurance. The lines of hoplite soldiers pressed forward with their shields, seeking to push back the enemy line, breach its ranks, and trigger a retreat. The virtues most needed by a Spartan warrior then were commitment, discipline, and the fortitude required to stand one’s ground and grind it out. Courage was certainly needed, but not the courage of intrepid boldness, but that which modern general George S. Patton called “fear holding on a minute longer.”

Once this is grasped, one can begin to better understand the rationale behind the agoge’s famous hardships: meager rations, limited bathing, a single cloak to wear year-round in all temperatures, beds made of reeds. And of course the endless rounds of vigorous exercise and sports. As Plato noted, Spartan training really amounted to a relentless series of endurance tests.

The end sought in such training was not hardship for hardship’s sake, but an adaptability, a tolerance for pain and for changing, challenging conditions — a mental toughness that bolstered physical toughness, and vice versa. The aim was to inculcate the kind of strength most needed by a Spartan warrior: that of being able to hold the line under pressure. As Patton put it: “A pint of sweat saves a gallon of blood.”

Speak (and Think) Laconically

The Spartan philosopher Chilon — one of the Seven Sages of Greece — famously said that “less is more,” and this was a maxim that guided the whole ethos of Lacedaemon — from its buildings to its citizens’ clothing and diet. Indeed, “Spartan” today remains a descriptor synonymous with simplicity, austerity, and frugality — a comfort with discomfort and a disdain for luxury.

The “less is more” principle also governed the language of the Spartans, who took a minimalist approach to speech which today we still refer to as “Laconic.” The ideal was to speak only when one had something important to say, and then only in short, terse bursts, pithy sayings, and the sharp, clever replies that characterized Laconic wit. The Spartans honed their words until they were as sharp as their spears — and just as sure to find their mark.

For example, legend has it that when Philip II sent a message saying, “If I enter Laconia, I will raze Sparta,” the Spartans sent but a one-word reply: “Hvis.” And of course there is the famous story of the soldier at Thermopylae who lamented to Leonidas that the Persians shot so many arrows that they darkened the sun. The warrior king’s reply? “Then we will fight in the shade.”

Socrates thought that the Spartans’ singular style of speech was a way of strategically getting others to underestimate them:

“they conceal their wisdom, and pretend to be blockheads, so that they may seem to be superior only because of their prowess in battle . . . This is how you may know that I am speaking the truth and that the Spartans are the best educated in philosophy and speaking: if you talk to any ordinary Spartan, he seems to be stupid, but eventually, like an expert marksman, he shoots in some brief remark that proves you to be only a child.”

It was also a field expedient way of speaking — you want to get straight to the point when yelling commands in the chaos of combat.

But the Laconic tactic of conserving speech may have also been a deliberate philosophical choice as historian Karl Otfried Müller speculated, “A habit of mind which might fit its possessor for such a mode of speaking, would best be generated by long and unbroken silence.” That is, if one wishes to make what he says count, he is forced to be more reflective before opening his mouth.

Achieve Mastery in Your Domain

“these men neither tilled the soil nor toiled at the crafts—but freed from labor and sleek with the palaestra’s oil, they exercised their bodies for beauty’s sake and passed their time in the polis . . . they were ready to do all and suffer all for this one accomplishment — noble and dear to human kind — that they might prevail over all against whom they marched.” –Josephus

The Spartans were more multi-dimensional than often imagined: the polis was almost universally literate, excelled in music and dance, produced sculptors, philosophers, and poets, and of course engaged in an array of sports and athletics.

Nonetheless, they did undoubtedly give intense, relentless focus to one area above all others: the development of martial skill and virtue. This was the highest form of excellence — the domain in which every warrior strove to achieve absolute mastery.

The Spartans did not dabble in warfare it was the pursuit around which all culture — education, relationships, politics — was structured and disciplined. Citizens were barred from farming or practicing a trade, and even from possessing gold or silver coins without the distractions of commerce and material acquisition, they could concentrate wholly on mastering the way of the warrior. Rahe writes:

“The Spartans were, as Plutarch remarks, ‘the servants of Ares,’ not Mammon. They were ‘the craftsmen of war,’ not the makers of pots. They had but one purpose in life: to gain a reputation for valor.”

While the militiamen of other cities spent the months outside the fighting season as farmers or craftsmen or merchants, the Spartans were full-time soldiers. As Plutarch observed, “they were the only men in the world for whom war brought a respite in the training for war.”

Dedicating themselves wholly to their vocation, they became the best at what they did, with an advantage over those who were mere dilettantes in the martial arts in an episode recounted by Plutarch, the Spartan king Agesilaus sought to convince Lacedaemon’s allies to join the polis in a war against Thebes, by essentially arguing that a single Spartan warrior was worth more than several men from other city-states:

“The allies said they had no wish to be dragged this way and that to destruction every year, they themselves so many, and the Lacedaemonians, whom they followed, so few. It was at this time, we are told, that Agesilaus, wishing to refute their argument from numbers, devised the following scheme. He ordered all the allies to sit down by themselves, and the Lacedaemonians apart by themselves. Then his herald called upon the potters to stand up first, and after them the smiths, next, the carpenters, and the builders, and so on through all the handicrafts. In response, almost all the allies rose up, but not a man of the Lacedaemonians for they were forbidden to learn or practice a manual art. Then Agesilaus said with a laugh: ‘You see, men, how many more soldiers than you we are sending out.’”

Fight From Habit, Not Feeling

As a result of this extraordinary focus on mastering a single domain — thirteen years of dedicated training, ten years of practice and real-life execution as a full-time soldier, and decades more of martial maintenance in the reserves — the ways of war become ingrained in the sinews of a Spartan soldier. Pressfield compares the preparation of this force with that of the militiamen mustered by other city-states:

“This process of arming for battle, which the citizen-soldiers of other poleis had practiced no more than a dozen times a year in the spring and summer training, the Spartans had rehearsed and re-rehearsed, two hundred, four hundred, six hundred times each campaigning season. Men in their fifties had done this ten thousand times. It was as second-nature to them.”

The summer soldier was not accustomed to the sights, sounds, and hardships of war their hands had not been calloused around the shaft of a spear their backs had not gotten used to the weight of their armor their eyes had not become inured to the sight of an advancing foe. Courage in these unfamiliar circumstances was a matter of trying to gin up a feeling — an emotion rallied in the supportive, rah-rah safety of one’s own line, and then utterly vaporized by contact with the enemy’s.

For the Spartans, courage was not a vulnerable and transitory state of mind, but the product of preparation and practice. In fact, they did not respect the solider who fought in an impassioned rage, believing such loud and belligerent posturing was used to hide one’s fear and lack of self-composure. Instead, they sought to embody the ethos of “the quiet professional” who simply sets out to do his job, and lives the classic motto voiced by coaches like Vince Lombardi: “Act like you’ve been there before.”

The courage of the Spartans was not born of feeling, but discipline.

It was not an emotion, but a habit.

Or as Pressfield observes in Gates of Fire, “War is work, not mystery.”

Conquer or Die

“And he who falls in the front ranks and gives up his spirit
So bringing glory to the town, the host, and his father
With many a wound in his chest where the spear from in front
Has been thrust through the bossy shield and breastplate
This man they will lament with a grievous sense of loss.”

“And disgraceful is the corpse laid out in the dust,
Thrust through from behind by the point of a spear.”

–Tyrtaeus

After the Battle of Thermopylae, a monument was placed atop the burial mound, where the last of the 300 Spartans died defending the pass, which reads:

“Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here obedient to their laws we lie.”

The epigraph is famous, but what was the “law” exactly to which these warriors stayed true?

According to Herodotus, the exiled Spartan king Demaratus gave an answer to Xerxes on the eve of the battle, when the Persian “King of Kings” inquired as to how much resistance to expect from the Greeks:

“As for the Spartans, fighting each alone, they are as good as any, but fighting as a unit, they are the best of all men. They are free, but not completely free—for the law is placed over them as a master, and they fear that law far more than your subjects fear you. And they do whatever it orders—and it orders the same thing always: never to flee in battle, however many the enemy may be, but to remain in the ranks and to conquer or die.”

The Spartan heading into battle didn’t save anything for the way back he faced the enemy head on without thought of retreat. He lived the ethos embodied in the charge given him by his mother and wife as he left for battle: “Come back with your shield or on it.”

This, ultimately, was the Spartan way.

Be sure to listen to our podcast with Paul Rahe all about Sparta:


Spartan Leadership, Loyalty and Legacy

With violence and strength being such critical elements of the society, it is a wonder that there weren&rsquot more violent uprisings or coups. However, as mentioned earlier, Spartan warriors were not only taught how to fight, but also imbued with a sense of honor and devotion to their city-state. Their individual accomplishments did not matter, only their role in the greater achievements of the Spartan state were considered important.

Furthermore, with enemies pressing in from every side, both foreign powers and other Grecian city-states, Spartans had to be uni-directional in their mindset, and the strict rigidity of hierarchy and social structure kept soldiers and citizens alike in line.

The legends of Spartan military might will surely persist, and while some of their exploits have reached Herculean standards, much of the admiration for Spartan military might is well-deserved. Beating back the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae largely protected the rest of Greece from falling under Persian rule. Given Greece&rsquos key role as the birthplace of western society, Spartan heroics on the battlefield is something we should still respect to this day.


5. The custom of diamastigosis

Diamastigosis was the ritualistic flogging custom involving Spartan adolescents that took place in the temple of Artemis Orthia. Spartans were a disciplined clan that took to extremes. One such extreme was flogging. The flogging ritual was done so as to test the endurance level of young Spartan adolescent boys, and also to check their courage.

Since, all Spartan boys were inducted into military training from a very young age, they were needed to endure several hardships and pain. This ritual was a test to see whether they were fit for their future military endeavors or not. However, this ritual often led to causalities. There is a 3rd century AD amphitheater that was used to organize this ritual with spectators.


Dark Times in Ancient Greece
This was the Bronze Age, the time of Homers epic Iliad and a time when champions on the battlefield were heroes. They fought in full body armor, with figure eight shields for protection. They attacked with spears, swords and bows (which the Spartans considered cowardly) and used basic tactics like the mass charge. Routed armies were often massacred. Classical Greece proved to be a cauldron of military development and infantry tactics. The rugged terrain isolated groups and made the use of chariots and cavalry very difficult. This combined with frequent, massive invasions from the Balkans created an early arms race. In this super heated environment infantry tactics geared up very quickly, driven by the continuous warfare.

Ancient Spartan Warfare
The ancient Greeks found protection in natural citadels, or poleis, where they could defend themselves from raiding neighbors and pirates. Soon leaders of the each polis organized efforts to defend their crops and pastures and formed the political bases of the Greek city states. During the 6th and 7th century the Greeks reached their population limits and in an extraordinary event sent their surplus population abroad. The Greeks soon had colonies stretching from the North of the Black Sea to Spain. Each polis or several working together sponsored independent colonies, which intern became a trading and cultural extension of the original polis. These Greek colonies where generally welcomed by the indigenous populations and the trade in turn created wealth and a new middle class in Greek society back home.

In Peloponnesia excavations at Pylos and Nichoria have revealed for Messenia's late Bronze Age (1300s BC) a bureaucratic, agricultural kingdom ruled by the wanax at Pylos. The Messenians spoke Mycenaean Greek, and worshipped the Greek gods at local shrines. Later, Greeks believed a body of Dorians under Cresphontes invaded the country from the Northern Greece or Macedonia, establishing control over Peloponnesia. However, given that the Arcadian language is a direct and conservative descendent of Mycenaean Greek, it is more likely that the Dorians pushed the native Messenians into Arcadia if the invasion happened at all. The Dorians then merged with the previous inhabitants producing an the Messenian and Spartan tribes, groups that developed a strong national feeling. However, the relative wealth of Messenia in fertile soil and favourable climate attracted the expansionistic neighbouring Spartans. War broke out, it was said, as a result of the murder of the Spartan king Teleclus by the Messenians - which, in spite of the heroism of King Euphaes and his successor Aristodemus ended in the subjection of Messenia to Sparta (c. 720 BC). The numericaly inferior Spartans, realizing that they probably wouldn’t be as lucky the next time they fought the Messenians decided on a very rare course of action in the Greek world and set out to obtain complete military and social supremacy over their defeated neighbors. Two generations later the Messenians revolted and under the leadership of Aristomenes kept the Spartans at bay for some seventeen years (648 BC� BC). However, the stronghold of Ira (Eira) fell after a siege of eleven years and the Messenians where placed back under the heal of Sparta.

Bury and Meiggs, "A History of Greece," 4th Ed quotes. "As the object of the Spartans was to increase the number of lots of land for their citizens, many of the conquered Messenians (those who did not manage to leave the area) were reduced to the condition of Helots. Servitude was hard, though their plight might have been harder, for they paid to their lords only one-half of the produce of the lands which they tilled."

The Spartan poet Tyrtaeus describes how the Messenians endured the insolence of the masters:
"As asses worn by loads intolerable,
So Them did stress of cruel force compel,
Of all the fruits the well-tilled land affords,
The moiety to bear to their proud lords."

During the 7th century Lelantine War, a long war between the Greek trading powers Eretria and Chalcis and their allies, distracted the Greeks, Sparta made a power grab. The Spartans vowed to conquer their neighbors, Messenia, no matter how long and how many set backs they suffered. Messenia, a group of eight polis that had never quite united, had rich soil and that attracted the Spartans. The Spartan attack came as a surprise however it took two more decades to win the war. The numericaly inferior Spartans, realizing that they probably wouldn’t be as lucky the next time they fought the Messenians decided on a very rare course of action in the Greek world and set out to obtain complete military and social supremacy over their defeated neighbors.Two generations later the Messenians revolted, it took the Spartans took 17 years to bring them back under control, including an eleven year siege on the stronghold of Ira.

The next revolt didn’t breakout until 464 BC, but fear of Messenian uprisings would linger in the Spartans national memory for the rest of its existence. The Spartans called those who hadn’t fled helots and forced them into grueling servitude. However, the Spartans realizing that they were outnumbered four to one, and that the Helots would kill them at the first chance they got, fearful of the Messenians uprising the Spartans created a unique society among the Greeks. They used the helots as laborers and farmers to free the Spartan men for professional military service. Spartan life then became more militarized then any other city state, while the other Greeks became citizen/farmers and warriors the Spartan men all became professional warriors. In fact it was the only job available to a Spartan man. This freed them to launch military champions during any season while the other Greeks had to tend to their fields.

The society of the Spartans was considered strange to the other Greeks. They became obsessed with military power, focusing on exercise, discipline and their ability to endure any hardship. Around Greece they gained, and promoted, this reputation as a tough, unyielding and hardened society. When some diplomats visited from Athens they were given a black gruel for their meal, although this wasn’t standard Spartan fair, the Athenians returned home with tales about the Spartan’s disgusting food and obsession with warfare.

After their subjugation of Messenia the Spartans went to war against Argos, where they were taught a lesson. A Spartan army was defeated by a phalanx this formation of spearmen was a major advancement over the free for all tactics previously used. The Greek world took notice and soon the new middle class formed a warrior class based on phalanx heavy infantry tactics. These hoplites (named after their large shields or hoplons) became both a major political and military force throughout Greece. They employed basically the same tactics as the Argos but Spartan weapons were tweaked for efficiency in close order combat.

In a phalanx formation hoplites formed shieldwalls by overlapping their large shields, the left of each shield protecting the warrior to the left. Only the shins and head of the hoplite wear exposed, and these were well protected by grieves and helmets. The spears of the first three ranks of a phalanx formation could be used offensively. Although the phalanx was not a Spartan innovation they became the best hoplites in Greece through constant drilling. Individual Spartan warriors were highly disciplined and frequently exercised to increase their stamina, an important attribute when phalanxes clashed. (For more details on phalanx formations and tactics see Ancient Weapons: Spears or Greek Warriors - Hoplites and Phalanxes section).

Spartan Military Culture
From this environment was born the Spartan war machine, the era's pinnacle of heavy infantry tactics. The Spartans gained eternal military fame for their stand against the Persians at the battle of Thermopylae when 300 Spartan hoplites held off an entire Persian army and inflicted severe damage to it before succumbing to the vast Persian forces and dying to a man.

The Spartan armies dominated Greece after their victory in the exhausting Peloponnesian Wars (460 to 404 BC). Both their individual warriors and group tactics where honed to a perfection never before seen on the battlefield. The lifestyle of these ancient warriors has even become a word in the English language meaning sternly disciplined and rigorously simple, frugal, or austere. Spartan also means brave and undaunted.

Spartan Warriors: Birth and Training
The selection of Spartan warriors started before their birth. The Spartans encouraged athletic completion and the victors where held in high esteem. They married the strongest boys with the strongest girls and the fastest boys with the fastest girls in order to bread the best warriors. Infamously, the Spartan elders would inspect new born infants and any found to be imperfect, judged to be puny or deformed, were thrown from a cliff. The cliff was a chasm on Mount Taygetos known euphemistically as “The Deposits".

The training of Spartan warriors started when they were boys. They were sent to a military boarding school, or agoge, at age seven where they formed a class with other boys their age. Their education emphasized physical, mental and spiritual toughness and could be quite brutal. They where taught to endure hardship and pitted against each other in fights by their instructors. Adolescents were used to terrorize the Helots, and in a particularly nasty tradition called a Krypteia they were sent out at night with the goal of killing any helot precieved to be a threat or unlucky enough to be discovered out alone. Each fall the Spartans would declare war on the Helot making it legal to kill any Helot.

Spartan Military Duty & Hoplites
At age twenty the men of Sparta moved into the barracks and became full time soldiers. Even if they married, which they were expected to due, they lived in the barracks. Military service lasted until the age of forty, duty in the reserves lasted from forty to sixty years of age. In desperate time’s men as old as sixty-five could be called up to protect supplies.

Sparta was known for being the only Greek city without a city wall, a famous saying among Spartans went something like, “Our men are our walls.”

Spartan Armor
A hoplite typically had a bronze, muscled breastplate, a helmet with cheek plates, as well as greaves and other shin armor. They carried a bowl-shaped wood and bronze shield called an aspis or hoplon, and when worn a dispus. It was very heavy and protected the warrior from chin to knee. In Spartan military culture, throwing away a soldiers hoplon during a retreat like other routed hoplites was not acceptable. "Come home with this shield or upon it" was a there motto. Meanings, if you can’t come home victorious, then come home dead. Most Greek hoplites had family symbols on their shield, as the expensive equipment was often inherited from ones parents. In contrast, the Spartans (starting in 420 BC) had the same uniform instead of customized armor and the Greek letter lambda on their shield, referring to their homeland Lacedaemonia. They also wore a scarlet cape to represent them as Spartans, though the cape was never worn in combat.

Spartan Weapons
Their primary weapon was a spear around 7-9 feet (2.7 meters) in length called a doru. The doru had a leaf shaped spearhead on the business end and a spike on the other. The spike, called a “lizard killer” could be used to stand the spear up by planting it in the ground or it can be used to finish off fallen enemies that the formation is moving over. Additionaly, if the spearhead broke off the spear could then be spun around and the spike used in its place.

Spartan warriors also carried a short sword, the xiphos, to be used as a secondary weapon and in the crush of battle when only a short weapon could be used effectively. The blade of a xiphos was typically about 2 feet (50-60 cm) long. The blade was shaped like a long leaf and could be used for slashing however they were usually used for stabbing. The Spartans used an even shorter xiphos than the other Greeks, the blade measuring only 1-1½ feet (30-40cm) long making it even easier to use in tight places. The xiphos could be used to stab at the unprotected groin, armpit or throat of an enemy.

Another secondary weapon available was the kopis, a short sword with a heavy curved blade that could be used for hacking away at enemies. Although it had a point that could be used for stabbing the weapon was designed to be used almost like a hatchet. The results of the use of this weapon were gruesome, giving it a reputation as a “bad guys” weapon. In the art of Sparta’s arch rival, Athens, Spartan warriors are often depicted using the kopis. (See Spartan Weapons for more details.)

Spartan Military Decline:
After the Pelopensian War Spartan military dominance was challenged by Thebes, with the Aid of Athens, Corinth and Argos in the Corinthian War (395-387 BC ). Although Sparta was able to achieve a number of land victories but was weekend by raiding on its Coast and provoking the helots to revolt. However after a short truce the war again flared up in an all out battle for supremacy. The Spartans were defeated in the Battle of Lauctra by the great general and strategist Epaminondas of Thebes. His tactic of using and echelon formation with the leading side loaded up with his best troops and in very deep formation allowed him to break the unbreakable, the Spartan hoplite line crumbled.

The Spartans had lost up to 4000 hoplites and the helots revolted, a one two punch they would never recover from as Spartan citizenship was dependant on blood lines and their was no way to quickly regain manpower in their rigid society. The Spartan military had entered its long slow decline, eventualy their once cutting edge ancient weapons and tactics were even eclipsed. Nonetheless, Sparta was able to continue as a regional power for another two centuries. Neither Philip II nor his son Alexander the Great attempted to conquer Sparta itself respecting Spartan martial skill and not wanting to risk potentially high losses. It was reported that as late as 378 AD, following the disastrous defeat of the Roman imperial army at the Battle of Adrianople that a Spartan militia organized a phalanx and defeated a force of raiding Goths in battle.

Sparta’s Military Legacy
Spartan warriors have been inspired many throughout history. Admiration for the Spartans even has a name, Laconophilia. Their actions at the Battle of Thermopylae in particular have a place in the modern culture and it is perhaps the most famous last stand in history. The story about how 300 Spartans (and 700 Thespiae, who are often neglected) defended the pass at Thermopylae for 3 days against what against a massive Persian army (2 million according to Herodotus, although probably around 70,000 – 300,000 by modern estimations) has been told countless times. Modern interpretations of the Spartans have typically whitewashed some of their more brutal intuitions and portrayed them as the saviors of Western culture. This honorific, if applied to them along with the other Greek States, is not entirely undeserved though as Greek culture would become the bases for Western culture. A Persian victory over the Greeks would certainly have extinguished this light, along with ideas such as democracy, philosophy and science.



2. Early Education

Adolescent boys were taught from a young age that life was not easy. Their initial training included a lot of what we would today consider abuse. They were often denied proper nutrition and made to work much harder and longer than their young bodies could handle. Their endurance was being tested and their elders were toughening them up for their futures. Of course, a few examples from Grecian history take these experiences to an entirely new level of disturbing.

One says that the young boys in training were starved, and then a plate of cheese would be set out before them all. As the boys would scramble to get even just a morsel of food, they would be whipped for coming too close to the plate. This particular custom became something of a tourist trap for visitors, and the practice took place in a public space for all to see.

Another example involves children being rounded up into groups and told to go out and kill a slave of their choosing in the middle of the night. The bigger, stronger and smarter the slave they killed, the higher the praise they would receive. This practice was fairly common, making it a very good thing to be a weak, stupid slave in Spartan households, as it meant you would never be targeted.

Leonidas I of Sparta. By Praxinoa CC BY-SA 3.0


The Spartan’s weakness

The next day, the Persians thought about how to find a weak point of the Greeks. The Greeks were organized into detachments after their hometowns and fought hard while the Phocians were stationed on the mountain to guard a pass. They continued to attack only to taste the Greek iron again, and so they retreated to their camps again. The Spartans mercilessly massacred the attackers. Xerxes was confused. He couldn’t believe he was thinking of withdrawing or suspending the campaign. The Phocian wall (though not smaller than one that even a hen would jump) accompanied by the Greek phalanx was impenetrable.

But a miracle happened: in his tent, the guards brought a certain local (probably a merchant or shepherd) named Efialtes from Trachis, the son of Eurydemus from Malis, who had a secret to share for a rich reward. He revealed to the king the secret pass that would bring him victory. King Xerxes, being glad, ordered them to show them to his soldiers under the command of Hydarnes, and to lead them personally at night to the mountain pass to Thermopylae. The path led from the east of the Persian camp along the ridge of Mount Anopaea behind the rocks that guarded the pass. At one point, the path forked, one road leading to Phocis and the other to Malis Bay at Alpenus, the first town in Locria.

At daybreak, Persian forces surrounded the Phocians defending the pass. The people of Phocis heard them walking because of the rustling of the oak leaves. The Persians rushed upon them with a rain of arrows. The Phocians rushed to the ridge of the mountain. The Persians thought it was not worth delaying because of them and quickly descended the mountain. Then Efialtes fled to Thessaly. The Greeks at Thermopylae were surrounded.

Leonidas received news from spies that the Persians were marching on the surrounding hills. So he decided to hold a council of war. Some generals and officers supported the retreat, others demanded to remain fighting. Even though some of the troops left for home, some of them decided to stay under Leonidas until the last moment. Leonidas himself ordered an air force to be formed to allow the other troops to retreat, preferring to fight honorably to the death and instead save 3,000 soldiers. He remembered the prophecy of the oracle that a great Spartan king would perish to save Sparta from barbarians. Some 700 Thespians and 400 Thebans remained with him.

At sunrise, after making libations, Xerxes ordered the army to advance and descend the mountain. The Greeks led by Leonidas remained to guard the passage. The Persians approached, and Leonidas’ Greeks grouped at the lighter part of the passage. If in the previous days they guarded the passage inside the wall, now they jumped over the wall to fight in the narrowest space. The final fight took place at the gorge. Piles of Persian soldiers were killed by the phalanx, while the chiefs whipped their squadrons to advance. Many Persians were thrown into the sea by the Spartans. A large number of Persians were trampled by their comrades. An indescribable crowd formed. The Spartans bravely resisted until their spears broke and they began to fight with swords, then with fists.

Leonidas fell in battle bravely. His comrades fought with the Persians for his body. The fight was horrible and bloody with many casualties. Xerxes even lost two brothers and grandchildren. 20,000 Persians were killed in the three days of fighting. Eventually, the Persians moved back, still enveloping them, and the archers fired a rain of arrows that killed the last surviving Greeks who were still fighting empty-handed. But the Lacedaemonian body behaved nobly, behaving as in a play. Even though the Persian arrows blocked sunlight, they said they fought in the shadows.


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