SPARTAN SOCIETY 8
1 Introduction 3
2 Spartan Society and Social Classes 3
2.1 Upbringing 3
2.2 Social Classes 4
3 Spartan Military 5
3.1 War with Persia 5
3.2 War with Athens 6
4 The Downfall of Spartans 7
5 References 8
Spartan society refers to a community of warriors that lived duringprimordial Greece. The society was militaristic and is remembered forits military prowess, specifically after conquering the Athens duringthe Peloponnesian battle. The Spartan way of life revolved aroundstate loyalty as well as serving in the military. As early as sevenyears, the boys were enrolled in a thorough military training alongwith joining a socialization program. The training was referred to as“Agoge”, and the boys were mainly taught about endurance, servingand discipline. The women did not serve in the military hence, theyhad more freedom than the men. The society was divided into socialclasses, which depended on individual’s status. Unfortunately, theSpartans were eventually conquered by Thebes, resulting in thedecline of the empire.
2Spartan Society and Social Classes2.1Upbringing
The Spartans brought up their children as a community. The earlyyears of a child’s life were spent with peers. While girls enjoyedfreedom, the boys’ lives were not totally free. This is because,from a young age, the boys were taken away from their parent’s careand enrolled into “Agoge” or military training (Garland, 1998).The objective of the training was to ensure that Spartan Societycontinued to have a strong military. Also, the education the boysreceived emphasized on high levels of discipline, submission andendurance. Unlike normal education, which concentrates on teachingchildren how to write and read, Spartans taught their children how tofollow orders and how to fight.
The training would continue up to the age of sixteen. The youngadults would graduate to become a secret police force for theirsociety. They lived in the wild. The education was finalized once theyoung adults became twenty years and became liable to take part inmilitary service. The young men were required to spend all their timein the army barracks, as they had not yet attained full citizenship(Garland, 1998). However, at the age of thirty they were awarded fullcitizenship to become Spartan. At this age, the men could now livewith their families, although they were still expected to spend moretime with peers (Garland, 1998).
The girls were also enrolled in a training program, which entailedrigorous physical education. They were taught how to wrestle, discusand throw javelin. The objective of the training was to guarantee thegirls, once women, would be capable of breeding healthy Spartanbabies (Garland, 1998). Child rearing was a very significant part ofa woman’s life in Spartan community. Women would be given away toother men, following the husbands’ consent, with the objective ofenhancing child birth, specifically in cases where the husband wasold or infertile (Garland, 1998).
The society was separated by three classes. These were theSpartans/Spartiate, helots and perioeci. The Spartans wereindividuals who enjoyed full citizenship. They were relatives of thefirst residents of the city, and comprised of individuals who hadqualified to serve in the military, and demonstrated high levels ofmilitary prowess. The Spartans were the only members of the communityallowed to take part in political affairs. In addition, they couldown land and were not required to pay taxes (Garland, 1998).
The perioeci were the second class of Spartan society. They wereallowed to own land and also enjoyed some freedoms. However, theywere required to pay taxes, but were not treated differently from thefirst class citizens (Garland, 1998). The perioeci had the freedom tojoin training programs, or even serve as military men. However, mostof them worked as traders as well as craftsmen (History,2016). They controlled trading between Sparta and its neighbors, andcreated the weapons used by Spartans in war.
The lowest social class comprised of the helots. When Spartansconquered other cities, they captured slaves, who became helots(Manfredi & Fedderson, 2007). These slaves were important to thesociety, because the Spartan men were not expected to perform anyother duties apart from military work. Hence, the slaves would tillland and divide their produce with their masters. Helots did not haveany rights and were simply treated as their master’s property. Theymade up a large percent of the entire Spartan society, something thatinstilled fear in the Spartans. As a result, helots were easilykilled and subjugated, a move that was aimed at ensuring they did notrevolt against the society.
The Spartan military is remembered for its prowess in battle.Military men would serve entirely in the army, and as a result hadample time to train and become the best soldiers. The ability as wellas courageousness of these soldiers continues to inspire many people,even in this century. For instance, they have been included in moviessuch as “300” and the video game “Halo”, where soldiers arereferred to as Spartans (Jarus, 2013).
3.1War with Persia
One of the main battle’s resulting in Sparta’s recognition asmilitaristic was its ability to conquer Messenia, and the conversionof Messenia’s subjects to slaves, or helots. Their prowess alsobecame evident during the war with Persia. Following Persiansinvasion of Greek cities, the Greeks sought assistance from Sparta tofight Persians. At first, Sparta was reluctant to engage in battlewith Persia, and only responded by threatening their King. However,the Persians continued with their pursuit of conquering Greek, a movethat angered Sparta and resulted in Sparta’s anti-Persian war.
During this battle, Spartan’s military tactics would becomeevident. For instance, they would turn “their backs, and making asthough they were flying away, on which the barbarians would rushafter them with much noise and shouting, the Spartans at theirapproach would wheel round and face their pursuers, in this waydestroying vast numbers of the enemy” (Jarus, 2013). The tacticensured that even when Spartans were outnumbered by their enemies,they still managed to kill large numbers of their adversaries, in theprocess weakening the Persian army.
Following the victory over Persia, Greeks were able to resume backto their cities. At the same time, Sparta rose into power becomingone of the most authoritative city states, together with Athens. Bynow, Sparta had managed to conquer many helots, capable of forming arevolt. When the city was hit by an earthquake in 465/464 B.C., thehelots used the opportunity to rebel (Jarus, 2013). As a result,Sparta was compelled to seek aid from its allies in controlling therevolt. But when Athens responded to their need for help, Spartarejected their assistance, a move that angered Athenians, and laterescalated into the Peloponnesian war.
3.2War with Athens
The war commenced in 457 B.C. and lasted for a period of 50 years.At some point, Athens appeared to have conquered Sparta, specificallyin 425 B.C. at Sphacteria, where hundreds of Spartans surrendered(Jarus, 2013). However, in 430 B.C., Sparta attacked Atheniansmanaging to block them. “The Athenians, who were packed behindtheir city walls during a Spartan attack, suffered a plague thatkilled many people including their leader, Pericles” (Jarus, 2013).Eventually, the disagreement between both cities escalated into sea,compelling Sparta to seek monetary assistance from Persia.
With financial help from Persia, Sparta was able to strengthen itsarmy. The city used the money to build a navy as well as trainsailors, under the leadership of King Lysander. The king also plannedsurprise attacks into Athens. This was another military prowess ofthe Spartans, whereby they had learnt how to attack their enemieswhen they least expected. Through these attacks, the Spartans managedto attack Athenians by surprise and overpowered their soldiers. TheAthenians were compelled to surrender, resulting in Sparta’svictory.
4The Downfall of Spartans
Despite the military capability exhibited by Sparta, the society waseventually defeated in war by the Thebans (History, 2016).After conquering the Athenians, Sparta differed with the Persians,which meant that they did not have allies to back them up in war. Asa result, when the Spartans went into war with the Thebans they weredefeated. Also, the large number of helots they had captured fromMessenia became liberated in 418 B.C. This meant that the society nolonger had slaves to work for them as they continued to improve theirmilitary skills. Also, some of the helots had been recruited to servein the army, but following their liberation the army declined insize. The military became weakened and Spartan society continued toexist as a second-rate power.
Garland, R. (1998). Dailylife of the ancient Greeks.Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.
History.(2016). Sparta. Retrieved from:http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/sparta
Jarus, O. (2013). History of Ancient Sparta. Live Science.Retrieved from: http://www.livescience.com/32035-sparta.html
Manfredi, V. M & Fedderson, M.C. (2007). Spartan: ANovel. New York: Simonand Schuster.