Friday, October 14, 2011

Ancient Sparta : A war machine(part 2)

Continuing from the 1rst part


It was not easy for anyone to become a good Spartan citizen. The challenges were beginning since the birth of a child.Only the 100% healthy babies were considered able to receive Spartan education. The "unhealthy" babies were considered useless and were thrown off from cliffs to be eaten by  ravens.The most renowned cliff was  Kaiadas , and even nowadays there is a phrase that parents tell to children in order to scare them. Θα σε ρίξω στον Καιάδα(I will throw you in Kaiadas). The children were staying with their parents until the 7th year of their life. Afterwards they were taken by the state to be educated and trained as soldiers.
King Leonidas the most famous Spartan king

Continuous training
The trainers were deliberately inciting quarrels between the young Spartans to see the ability of each one. They were letting them out in the cold without food, they were forcing them to run on rocky grounds without sandals and to collect reeds  which they would use as their bed.The boys were allowed to steal food but if they  got caught they were punished not because they stole but because they were caught stealing.

The young Spartans were also learning reading and writing and from 18 years old they acquired more political and social rights. However they lived under restriction until their 30s

There was a story about a Spartan who after he failed to be elected at the Apella(senate), he stated that he was happy that there were so many men in Sparta who were better than him.The Spartans were not allowed to travel beyond Laconia or to possess gold. If someone was not able to contribute for the food distribution the state was covering his contribution.
A Spartan woman giving the shield to her husbant.

Posthumous fame
Those who reached 60 years of life were becoming respectable and famous in the Spartan society. They lived the rest of their life in comfort and when they died the state organised special events to honor their memory.The burial ceremonies of the rest of the people were modest. After they were covered by a blanket they were buried discreetly . According to the Spartan law the mourning period lasted only 12 days.Religion and religious rituals were approved by the state.According to a tradition Lycourgos who was worshipped as a god had brought the divine laws of Sparta from the Oracle of Delphi.

Spartan women
The position of woman in the Spartan society and her equality with men was something notable for every foreign visitor.

The education of women had great importance as they had to manage the household for a long time  when the men were outtside of a city on military campaigns. Spartan women had an unacceptable for the rest of the Greek world level of freedom. They were participating like men in athletic events and they also practiced dancing.

The state was taking the responsibility to educate the Spartan children and the men were out of the city for a long time. This gave the women many privileges on running the Spartan society. Women in Sparta were so independent that once when a foreign woman asked king Leonidas' wife "why only Spartan women could control their men" she answered that "it is because only Spartan women give birth to real men"

The choice of a husbant was a personal affair and not of the woman's parents. The wedding age of a Spartan woman was at 20 years old unlike other Greek cities where the wedding age was at 15.THe wedding custom involved firstly the "abduction" of the woman by the man and a period where each was living separately in their own home. The meetings of the lovers were secret ,brief and in total darkness. Thus they were not loosing time with the obligations of living together and they were keeping the spark of their love to last longer and by that they remained having a sole lover.

Sometimes such relationships were lasting so long that some men had children without ever seeing their wife under sunlight. Women who were not living with their husbants had no problems as this habit was accepted in the Spartan society.

Spartan women were able to inherit their parents fortune unlike in any other Greek city were the wealth of the bride's parents was passed to the husbant.
Spartan women were engaged in Athletics just like men.

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