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Culture Study of Spartan Society Essays

CULTURE STUDY OF SPARTAN SOCIETY Michael Labelle HIST111: World History before 1650 Dr. Timothy Hayburn October 11, 2012 Labelle 2 As a culture, the Spartans were very unique in their pursuit for prosperity. Morality, honor, courage, discipline and commitment were evident in every aspect of Spartan lifestyle. The code of ethics, in which Spartan society lived by, were unmatched by any other Greek society and was the embodiment by which they where able to thrive as a culture.
As fanatical as the Spartans may have been in their culture, many of their concepts hold true in the modern day society. Concepts such as earning citizenship and “service before self” are just a couple of examples that many societies use as the foundation onto which they hope to design their social structure. Yet, many countries may not be willing to go to the extremes as the ancient Spartan. Ultimately, how were the Spartans able to implement their principles under military style conditions and still flourish as society?
Although martial law, or a military society, may invoke thoughts of repressed citizens and extremism with regard to military control, the Spartans managed to institute their principles onto their society that encourage prosperity and enabled a sense of pride from their people. In order to achieve an understanding of this ancient Greek culture, geography, social structure and interaction, the process of indoctrination and training will be examined in order to capture the true essence of this ancient society.
Geography of Greece Situated in the northeastern region of the Mediterranean, much of Greece’s physical geography consists of mountainous terrain and a surrounding archipelago. Mostly comprised of individual city-states or polis1, Greece’s cities were principally organized according to alliances in the region. An advantage which Greece had within this region was its location within the Mediterranean and the abundance of islands from which Greece was able to establish a welldefined naval force in which to protect its trade routes and surrounding waters. While the Spartans properly speaking, the Lacedaemonians2) controlled Peloponnesus, the southern Tim Hayburn 10/28/12 4:06 PM Comment [2]: Put your footnotes at the end of the sentence Tim Hayburn 10/28/12 4:06 PM Comment [1]: Awkward – this appears to be your argument, so you should define it a bit more clearly Labelle 3 peninsula of Greece-proper on the ground, the remaining Grecian military (principally their naval force) controlled the seas with their naval forces. Greece capitalized on these combined strengths to render any invasion by other empires nearly impossible, if not suicidal.
The Spartans in particular were admired throughout the region for their ferocity, skill and intellect in the art of warfare and where the dominant power in Hellas. 3 Social structure Where other city-states pursued different lives, the people of Sparta developed into a martial culture whose trade craft was to become the skilled master-at-arms and dominated the Hoplite system. Despite their military mindset, the Spartan social structure was complex in nature (comparable to a republic form of government in modern day society) and was divided into three major groups: full blooded Spartan, Perioicoi, and Helots.
Full blooded Spartans, or Spartiates4, were considered the principle warriors of Sparta and were able to enjoy all the privileges of citizenship. The second was that of the Perioicoi, those people who were not full citizens but lived in the surrounding area of Lacedaemonia; these were primarily farmers and merchants. Despite being a non-citizen of Sparta, Perioicoi could be accepted into the Spartan training regiment, but admission was very limited for non-citizens as Spartans were very apprehensive on allowing outsiders to train within their organization.
The third was that of the helots5, conquered peoples who served the Spartans and conducted much of the heavy manual labor required throughout their territory. The majority of women in ancient Greek society were considered second-class citizens, not enjoying the privileges of voting or land ownership. Spartan women were treated differently and were accorded a little more respect than their Grecian counterparts. 6 They were educated in the gynaikagoge and had more freedom than other Hellenic women of Greece as they were able Tim Hayburn 10/28/12 4:09 PM Comment [4]: Follow p #1: Why was it so important for the Spartans to rely on slave labor? What fears did this reliance on slaves generate among the Spartans? Tim Hayburn 10/28/12 4:07 PM Comment [3]: Yet the Greek people were not constantly united, so referring to Greece is not accurate Labelle 4 to own and obtain land, go anywhere and attend all public events. 7 The Spartan women’s training was not limited to only academics, they also endured physical fitness that was unmatched (and no less) than their male counterparts.
Pomeroy (2002) details that both Lycurgus’, the law giver of Sparta, and Plutara’s efforts resulted in establishing a physical training regime for Spartan women that would be no less than for men, including competitions in racing, trials of strength, javelin throwing and even wrestling . 8 The entire system was controlled by two kings and a council of 28 elders, the Gerousia. The Gerousia were men who were too old to campaign and were elected to their posts for life. Despite their physical limitation, the Gerousia were admired for their experience and exerted much of the control in the society.
In addition, there were five Ephors – citizens elected annually by the general assembly. These Ephors had power over the kings and gerousia9 10. This glimpse into the Spartan’s government (oligarchy11 12) suggests many similarities in a modern day democracy. By instituting this type of government, the Spartan government official’s power was not without their limits, and the citizens were treated as free individuals represented by a counsel of their peers to decide the fate of the empire.
The Spartan’s concept of government in itself is contradictory to how one would typically think militaristic society would govern its people, and was a contributing factor towards their success. However, the catalyst of Spartan society was not in their government, as this was a mentality that was a result of their early training. Indoctrination into the warrior class From an early age, a sense of appreciation was instilled in every Spartan citizen.
Hence the pinnacle of Spartan society came to be known as the “agoge” by which all citizen were required to endure in order to gain citizenship13 and the key to their success. Spartan youths entered the agoge at age 7. Therein, these children were trained in the ways of the Spartan Tim Hayburn 10/28/12 4:11 PM Comment [6]: Follow up #2: How did the Spartan government differ from that in other Greek city states such as Athens? Tim Hayburn 10/28/12 4:10 PM Deleted: 5 Tim Hayburn 10/28/12 4:10 PM Comment [5]: Be  consistent and use the same types of citations throughout the paper Labelle 5 warrior.
During this time frame, youths in the agoge led very plain lives (from whence is derived the term “Spartan” for anything of similar simplicity), were given very little in a sense of comforts and were expected to rely on their resources to achieve success. In addition to warfare, youths were taught music and dance14, and if so needed, advanced skills in reading and writing if the youth was expected to enter a position requiring such skills. This type of indoctrination was a critical stage in the development of a Spartan warrior as it taught the fundamental principle of others over self, and state before one’s own personal interests.
Despite the conditions in which Spartan trainees had to endure, which may be considered brutal by today’s standards, they were never neglected during the training as this would compromise the purpose of the indoctrination process. Each youth was assigned to an older Spartan warrior who was not his father. 15 This older warrior was responsible for mentoring the youth by teaching him the finer points of the warrior code and to provide counsel as to his performance. At age 20 and if found worthy, these youths were accepted as full peers and became members of a mess.
At age 30 a Peer was allowed to move out of the barracks, marry, and live with his family. Not having to learn a war craft in addition to a regular profession, the Spartan warrior excelled at his trade – war. The focused training also turned Spartan males into excellent citizens, respectful of others. Spartan society lived by a code of ethics that was unmatched and revered by many Greek societies. Morality, honor, courage, discipline and commitment were evident in all aspects of their society. However, the corner stone in which Spartan society was able to flourish was evident in their devotion to education and training.
The Spartan indoctrination process, the agoge, was long and arduous. However, the process of indoctrination would mass a generation of Spartan men and women for whom would secure prosperity for generations. Tim Hayburn 10/28/12 9:18 PM Comment [7]: Follow up #3: How successful were the Spartans in maintaining their society over time? What weaknesses hurt them as time went on? Labelle 6 Notes 1. John McKay, Bennet Hill, John Buckler, Roger Beck, Clare Crowston, Patricia Ebrey, and Merry Wiesner-Hanks, A History of World Societies. (Boston, MA: Bedford St. Martins, 2009), 78 2. Lacedaemonian. Dictionary. com.
Dictionary. com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 3. Anton Powell, Athens and Sparta: Constructing greek Political and Social History from 478 BC, (London, UK: Reutledge, 1988) 4. Spartiates. Dictionary. com. Dictionary. com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 5. McKay, et al, (2009), 81 6. Paul Cartledge, Spartan Reflection, (London, UK: University of California Press, 2003), 83-84 7. Sarah B. Pomeroy, Spartan Women, (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 4 8. Ibid, 13 9. McKay, et al, (2009), 81 10. Paul Cartledge. Sparta and Lakonia: A Regional History 1300-362 BC. (New York, NY: Routledge, 2002), 220 11.
Oligarchy. Dictionary. com. Dictionary. com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 12. Paul Cartledge, (2002), 220 13. Jenifer Neil, and John H. Oakley, Coming of Age in Ancient Greecce: Images of Childhood from the Classical Past, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), 20-21 14. Paul Cartledge, (2003), 85 15. Ibid, 91-105 Tim Hayburn 10/28/12 9:19 PM Comment [10]: The title should be included in subsequent references Tim Hayburn 10/28/12 9:18 PM Formatted: Font:Italic Tim Hayburn 10/28/12 9:18 PM Comment [8]: Put  a period at the end of the citation Tim Hayburn 10/28/12 9:19 PM Comment [9]: Not scholarly source Labelle 7 Bibliography Cartledge, Paul. Sparta and Lakonia: A Regional History 1300-362 BC. New York, NY: Routledge, 2002 Cartledge, Paul. Spartan Reflections. London, UK: University of California Press, 2003 Dictionary. com. Dictionary. com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary. reference. com/browse/lacedaemonian (accessed: October 11, 2012) McKay, John, Hill, Bennet, Buckler, John, Beck, Roger, Crowston, Clare, Ebrey, Patricia, and Wiesner-Hanks, Merry. A History of World Societies. Boston, MA: Bedford St. Martins, 2009 Neil, Jenifer, and John H. Oakley.
Coming of Age in Ancient Greece: Images of Childhood from the Classical Past. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003 Pomeroy, Sarah B. Spartan women . Oxford, New York : Oxford University Press, 2002. http://apus. aquabrowser. com. ezproxy2. apus. edu/ (accessed October 14, 2012) Powell, Anton. Athens and Sparta: Constructing Greek Political and Social History from 478 BC. London, UK: Reutledge, 1988. http://web. ebscohost. com. ezproxy2. apus. edu/ehost/ebookviewer/ebook/nlebk_77284_AN ? [email protected]&vid=1 (accessed October 14, 2012)

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