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300


    "Than we shall fight in the Dark"   


            


About Spartan Military Life:

Spartan citizen boys left home for military boarding school at the age of seven and were required to serve in the army until age thirty. Then they passed into the active reserve, where they remained until the age of sixty. Spartan education from the ages of seven to thirty emphasized physical toughness, steadfastness in military ranks, and absolute obedience to orders. The ordinary Spartan was a citizen-warrior, or hoplite, trained to obey and endure; he became a politician only if chosen as ephor for a single year. He could be elected a life member of the council after his sixtieth year, in which he would be free from military service. Men were encouraged to marry at the age of twenty but could not live with their families until they left their active military service at age thirty. The Spartans perfected the craft of hoplite warfare. They called themselves "homoioi" (equals), pointing to their common lifestyle and the discipline of the phalanx, which demanded that no soldier be superior to his comrades.

When the Spartans began military training - aged 7 - they would enter the agoge system for the education and training—everything from physical training such as hunting and dancing, to emotional, and spiritual training. At that age they would have to go through what was known as the gauntlet. They would have to run around a group of older children, who would flog them continually with whips, sometimes to death. As they were lightly clothed, and had no bedding to speak of, children would often put thistles in their pallet because the prickling sensation made them feel warmer. On leaving the agoge they would be sorted into groups, whereupon some were sent into the countryside with nothing and forced to survive on their skills and cunning; this was called the krypteia, believed to be an initiation rite to seek out and kill Helots who were considered to be troublesome to the state, or were found to be wandering the countryside with no good reason.

At the age of twenty, the Spartan citizen began his membership in one of the syssitia (dining messes or clubs), composed of about fifteen members each, of which every citizen was required to be a member. Here each group learned how to bond and rely on one another. The Spartan exercised the full rights and duties of a citizen at the age of thirty. Only native Spartans were considered full citizens, and needed to undergo the training as prescribed by law, and participation in and contribution to one of the dining-clubs. Those who fulfilled these conditions were considered "peers" (homoioi), citizens in the fullest sense of the word, while those who failed were called "lesser citizens," and retained only the civil rights of citizenship.

Spartan citizens were debarred by law from trade or manufacture, which consequently rested in the hands of the perioeci, and were forbidden (in theory) to possess either gold or silver. Spartan currency consisted of bars of iron, thus making thievery and foreign commerce very difficult and discouraging the accumulation of riches. Wealth was, in theory at least, derived entirely from landed property, and consisted in the annual return made by the Helots, who cultivated the plots of ground allotted to the Spartan citizens. But this attempt to equalize property proved a failure: from the earliest times, there were marked differences of wealth within the state, and these became even more serious after the law of Epitadeus, passed at some time after the Peloponnesian War, removed the legal prohibition of the gift or bequest of land. Helots were ruthlessly controlled, partly through the custom of krypteia.

Full citizens, released from any economic activity, were given a piece of land (kleros), which was cultivated and run by the Helots. As time went on, greater portions of land were concentrated in the hands of large landholders, but the number of full citizens declined. Citizens had numbered 10,000 at the beginning of the 5th century BC, but had decreased by Aristotle's day (384–322 BC) to less than 1,000, and had further decreased to 700 at the accession of Agis IV in 244 BC. Attempts were made to remedy this situation by creating new laws. Certain penalties were imposed upon those who remained unmarried or who married too late in life. These laws, however, came too late and were ineffective in reversing the trend.

Perhaps the most widely known event on the efficiency of the Spartan war-machine is related to the Persian Wars. The Spartan stand at the Battle of Thermopylae has been repeatedly cited in a military grand strategy context as a role model concerning the advantages of training, strategy and bravery against extremely overwhelming odds and is often referred to as the greatest last stand of a military force in documented history.