C O U R S E L E C T U R E
The Spartan Way of Life
Notes taken on August 8, 2013 by Edward Tanguay
as with other ancient civilizations, what we have with Sparta are a number of stories which we can try to turn into a coherent narrative
Lycurgus [ligh-KER-gus] (820BC-730BC)
established the military-oriented reformation of Spartan society in accordance with the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi
the Spartan Constitution, believed to have been formulated and established by the legendary lawgiver, Lycurgus.
Lycurgus said to have received this from the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi
since Lycurgus apparently forbade any written constitution, it was said to have been oral
became the founding hero of the Spartan system, turning it into a kind of "military utopia"
in Homer, structure of government is king, council, and assembly which are represented in Sparta as well but very differently
in the rest of Greece, the king's duties and privileges were being given to other men in power
Sparta retained kingship, but there were two kings (diarchy)
two leaders of clans served together as kings
sons of two hereditary clans
could order a summary execution on a battle field of a soldier who didn't perform well
in Sparta, council was called Gerousia (group of older men, 60 or older), thirty of them
called Damos, but when they were called together they were called the Apella
voted by acclamation, all opposed, pound on your shields
retained its primitive identification with the army
elected by the assembly
responsible for maintaining discipline in the state
swore with king that they would both perform their duties, sign of tremendous social and political upheaval
similar to tribunate in Roman government, a permanent revolutionary office that becomes a central unit in the state
unparalleled elsewhere in Greek world
people had their dwellings around the perimeter
free but certianly not citizens
managed trade with outside world
"a remarkably undocumented group"
descendants of the original Messenians who had been conquered by the Spartans
forced into a kind of servitude
treated always and only as subordinates
were made to were dog-skin caps as a sign of their low status
they could be abused by any Spartan
had to provide agricultural labor
kept in line by a state terrorism
what kind of community was this?
was it a kingship? sort of
was it an oligarchy? sort of.
was it a radical democracy? sort of.
was it a military utopia? sort of.
this system, as different as it was, as odd as it was, worked for hundreds of years
One thing for sure is that Sparta was a community that has delighted political theorists throughout the ages.
Features of Spartan life
began at birth: it was scrutinized by one fo the ephors, if it showed any signs of illness, weakness, or disability, the ephor could order that it be exposed to die
raised until the age of seven
Spartan girls were raised with boys up until adolescense, very different from rest of Greece
Spartan women had a notorious degree of freedom compared to other parts of Greece
exercise, dance, requires you to follow directions
boys and girls separated
restricted to one garment
take daily baths in the icy water of the Eurotus
taught obediance, disobediance punished harshly
fed on a notorious gruel, said to be made of pig's blood
expected to supplement this diet with stealing but if they were caught stealing they were punished. You can start to see where this si heading
story: boy steals fox, hides under cloak, begins gnawing but he keeps it covered and secret until he drops over dead from his wounds and becomes an emblem of virtue in the face of suffereing.
full-scale Hoplite training
citizen solider, Sparta had become a Hoplite Republic
training was rigorous and violent and emphasized the idea of the utter dedication of the individual to the state
those who made it through applied to Syssitia, an eating club
given an allotment of land worked for them by helots which they had to keep under control
best fighters were sent out on secret missions at night to kill helots, would target those which were big, strong or charismatic
helot threat was different than in the rest of Greece since helots had an ethnic identity, they were all Messenians
warriors who were given equal tracts of land
both hunter and warrior
one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities
daughter of Zeus and Leto
daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe and the sister of Asteria
island of Kos is claimed as her birthplace
Zeus is the father of her twins: Apollo and Artemis
Hera in her jealousy had caused all lands to shun her, so she looked for a place to give birth to her twins Apollo and Artemis
protector of young girls, childbirth, virginity
compare: Ares symbolized negative aspects of war such as anger and hatred, while Athena represented positive aspects such as strategy and combat.
shrine of Artemis Orthia
Artemis has a bird dead clutched in each hand
a site of testing for Spartan youths
cheeses were piled up and guarded by men with whips, the hungry boys were expected to try to steal them and endured blood-drawing blows to get to the food
first historian known to collect materials systematically, test accuracy to a certain extent, and arrange them in a well-constructed and vivid narrative
one work: The Histories
wrote about the Spartans
utter devotion of citizen to community
makes it a kind of never, never land
a response to many of the stresses of the archaic age
legally or ideologically outlawed
make it the basis of your state
going into battle they would comb out their long hair
a society that was admired, scrutinized, and never imitated
From Plato's Laws, the anonymous Athenian says to his Spartan companion: One of the best laws you have is that citizens were forbidden to inquire into the relative merits of the laws, everyone has to agree with one heart and voice that they are excellent, and if anyone says differently, the citizens must absolutely refuse to listen to them.' Welcome to Sparta."