Greece Pt.2 (Sparta)

“Clearly became the most powerful and most famous in Greece.”

Xenophon

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out our last blog in the History Around the Globe Series –England!

By: Linda Ba

Coming up – Sparta!

War in the ancient world was too common to see and the Spartans in their prime were one of the most feared warriors. Spartans were not allowed to keep records, so many sources are actually collected from ancient historians outside of Sparta.

Spartan Army | Image from historyofyesterday.com

How to survive in Sparta

Sparta focused heavily on its military and the citizen’s only purpose was to serve Sparta. A newborn baby would have to face life or death the moment they were born. They would be thoroughly examined by elders to see whether this baby had the capability of fulfilling their purpose in the military. Those who did not pass the test were thrown off Mount Taygetus and left to die as they would not benefit the country.

Both boys and girls were required to be physically fit and healthy, so they could be prepared to fight at any given time.

Spartan Children | Image from documentarytube.com

Fun fact: only two types of people were granted a tombstone in Sparta. Men who died in war and women who died during childbirth.

The Agoge

When boys turned to seven years of age they were sent to the ‘Agoge’. This was an institution where the main purpose was to train young boys into fierce soldiers. This would last up to 13 years of harsh and brutal training. The boys were also encouraged to fight each other and bullying was encouraged, you just had to be the strongest.

Being beaten or slashed was common due to the practice of stealing. The boys were given three meals a day but they were not fed very well and sometimes may even go for days without eating. They were also given very limited clothing to practice their resilience in different temperatures during war. You would be beaten if you were caught stealing food or clothes, not because of stealing the physical items, but because you were caught and unable to getaway.

‘Diamastigosis’ was an annual competition where boys would be whipped in front of an altar, the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia. This competition was to test the boys’ bravery and resistance of pain. The last one standing would gain much respect and honor, however, it was common for some to die in front of the altar.

Agoge | Image from history.com

Women and marriage in Sparta

Women in Sparta were different from other Ancient Greece Cities, as they held more power and freedom. They had the ability to own land and were able to pass it on to their children, if an heir in the family was not present, an heiress may also inherit the land. Many could also poses legal status equal to men. Spartan girls also received an education, they would also train and compete in athletic activities and not be kept in the household as helots, which were Spartan slaves distributed among family groups. Women were taught not to be ashamed of their nakedness and would wear very minimal clothing, or even be completely naked. A woman should not have less training than men as their main purpose was to give birth to strong and healthy children.

Spartan Girl Running | Image from worldhistory.org

Women were expected to bear children between the ages of 18-22, and this was considered old compared to other Greek cities. It is not surprising that many would marry relatives to keep the bloodline pure. Men under the age of 30 were not allowed to stay with their families but has to stay in the barracks with fellow soldiers. Therefore, a man could only sneakily go visit his partner during the night.

Women who were widows were not required to remarry, however, if they were still in their prime time to bear children it was necessary to remarry.

Popular Culture

Do you want to know more about the militaristic life in Sparta?

Look no further for THIS IS SPARTA! The iconic Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C, also known as Battle of 300 has been recaptured again and again in modern day novels and films.

Our recommendation is the 2006 movie 300, a historical-action film centering around the events leading up to the war where King Leonidas of Sparta led a force of 300 men to fight the Persians at Thermopylae.

This is Sparta | Image from giphy.com

Keen to go on exchange to Europe?

After learning about Sparta, are you now interested in knowing more about the history of greater Europe? If you are, then why not apply for exchange to an European partner university? Check out UNSW’s list of partner universities spanning across Europe!

Check out our interviews with European exchange returnees for more interesting experiences around the region!

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