Sparta was a worrier community in ancient Greece that residents in a city known as Lacedaemon. The origin of the community can be traced to 900 BC. However, they rose to prominence in 650 BC when they started demonstrating their unique military skills. According to Cartledge (47), the ancient Sparta community was widely known for its strategic war plans that involved the use of various strategies. They fought many wars, such as the Peloponnesian War and Greco-Persian Wars, among others.
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Its superior military powers earned it respect in the entire Kingdom, and it was always trusted to lead all the wars that Greece had with other neighboring kingdoms. It was a threat to Athens as the center of civilization in Europe. Currently, it is the capital of Leconia. In this paper, it will be necessary to look at what made this society successful in its military activities.
Ancient Sparta lived in an era where the success of a kingdom was determined by its military prowess. Historians believe that the forefathers of this society were concerned about the constant threat of military strikes they faced due to their geographic location. As such, they developed a practice of military training that later became a culture they highly valued. In this culture, all men of this community were expected to be worriers.
This was so because it was a small community. At the age of 7 years, boys would be introduced into the art of war. They were trained on how to engage in a battle and what to do to win it. At 10-14 years, these children were introduced to the use of light weapons. As a way of practicing how to use these weapons, these children would be taken to the fields and bushes to hunt. Cartledge says that they went hunting, not to get food for their families, but how to use the weapons to kill the enemy (65).
At this early stage, they were already indoctrinated in the art of killing. Training of these youngsters was done by the elder members of the society who had retired from active military service because of their age. In the military camps, these children were also taught about their past and the reasons why fighting successfully was the only way of having a peaceful community. A study by Russell notes that at the age of 15 years, a Spartan was as skillful in the art of war as any other soldier in the neighboring community (23).
The rationale of training these children was to ensure that they grow up appreciating the relevance of war and knowing how to defend their community. Another fundamental reason for training these minors was to make them able to defend themselves in cases of attack. According to Nicol, during those periods, many soldiers would not spare the lives of boys aged seven years and above (38). As such, this training was meant to offer them self-defense skills and the ability to attack the enemy using significant force.
The Agoge military training system that was used in this community emphasized discipline, endurance, and creativity when engaging an enemy. These were the traits that made their worriers stand out from the rest in the battlefields.
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The teenagers were capable of fighting alongside men because they had all the trainings needed to do so. The Spartan women did not engage n war, and neither were they taken through the rigorous military training that men went through. However, they occupied a special place in the community compared with women in other societies. They would cheer men during training and ensure that they were properly fed and taken care of at all times. They also learnt some self-defense skills, although this was not a compulsory process. According to Walbank, one of the factors that made ancient Sparta unique on the battlefield was the weapons and armories that they used (78). It is believed that they influenced the art of war by making it possible to press an attack while defending itself at the same time.
Economically, ancient Sparta was not as successful as it was in the art of war mainly because it did not focus much on economic progress as it did in military empowerment. The community believed in having just enough provisions to last during hardships such as drought and prolonged war. Manual labor was done by slaves who were known as Helots (Russell 82). The Helots were expected to work in the fields and to hunt for food as a way of providing for the community. These slaves had ranks depending on their level of loyalty and hard work. During war, slaves who were considered a threat to the community were locked up or even killed as a way of protecting the kingdom. Women were sometimes assigned the role of supervising these slaves as they worked in the fields.
The social life of the ancient Sparta was not different from that of other communities in Greece. However, they gave their women a special position in the society that was different from that in other neighboring countries. Women were not expected to work in the farms because that was the work of the slaves. They highly valued family units. Most of the communal festivals were organized in summer when weather was favorable (Cartledge 86).
Spies would be positioned in strategic locations during such festivals to alert the community in case there was a threat of military attack. The elders who had retired from active military service presided over these ceremonies. The elders were also responsible for making important decisions such as when to go to war. The community started experiencing a significant decline in 371 BC following its defeat by Thebans at the Battle of Leuctra (Chryssikos 78).
Theban invaded this community in 362 BC and succeeded in freeing all the Messenian Helots (Themos and Zavvou 121). This was one of the greatest reasons for its decline because the community relied wholly on slaves to meet its economic needs. The community went into a long period of decline and in 192 it was finally annexed by Achea.
The ancient Sparta is widely known for its military prowess and courage during war. Their military skills and culture earned them a position in the ancient Greece as one of the greatest powers that ever existed in that region. They helped Greece win several ways and experience massive economic growth. Its socio-economic system differed from that in other Asian countries. Unfortunately, its reign as a major regional power came to an end starting 362 when it suffered a serious defeat in its war against the Thebans. It was finally annexed by Achea in 192.
Cartledge, Paul. “Introduction: The Spartan Tradition — a Personal Re-view.” British School at Athens Studies 16 (2009): 1–4. Print.
Chryssikos, George. “Ancient Sparta: The Home of Constitutional Government.” American Bar Association Journal 40.6 (2004): 494-495. Print.
Nicol, Donald. “Byzantine Mistra-Sparta in the Mind.” British School at Athens Studies 4.2 (2008): 157–159. Print.
Russell, Winnie. “Precursors of Mummers in Ancient Sparta?” Folklore 100.2 (2002): 247–248. Print.
Themos, Athanassios, and Elena Zavvou. “Recent Finds of Child Burials in the Area of Ancient Sparta from Protogeometric to Roman Times.” L’enfant Et La Mort Dans L’antiquité 32.3 (2010) : 227–242. Print.
Walbank, Francis. “Ancient Sparta.” The Classical Review 1.2 (2001): 98–100. Print.