A Conversation for Ancient Sparta


Post 1


Well, reading this entry make me think of what I saw at BBC 2 a year ago about Spartans; "Spartans at the gates of fire".

It was about the war-culture of the Spartans

It struck me from the beginning that the way the Spartans were described was glorifying them; the tone of admiration as well as the specific ingredients of what seemed to be Spartanic culture at 480 bc.

They had according to this docu (not made by BBC) immersed their lifes, their culture, their "éverything" in service of fighting and winning ány defensive war.(I believe they didn't have real offensive aspirations. Was also impossible)

They saw themselves clearly as a superior race and chosen by god to win any war.
Because of this "mission" they enslaved other Greeks to make their own economy work, because all Spartan men served from childhood the army.

Boys were at the age of 7 separated from their parents and totally immersed to the culture of fighting. When they became about fourteen they were supposed to be "unstable" and were supervised 24 hours a day until about eighteen! Five years in a row being supervised, day and night! (to mention something).

Women were "needed" just as "brooders".

In the first ten years of marriage, a Spartan warrior was nót supposed to actually séé his wife in daylight but only at night, so he'd fully "use her as a sexmachine".
(All quotes are just by head)

Giving birth to a boy was "better" then to a girl.

Whenever a war was needed you were supposed to come back ór as a winner or dead. Nothing else.

Everybody in the Spartan community was keeping an eye at his neighbours.

Whatever you might think of; it áll was shaped to serve war. Emotions, marriage, childhood, families, race, believes, morals, sexuality, aspirations, just name ánything.
It áll had the serve war and in principle just for their ówn small Spartan state.

Their whole exístence was to fight and win any defensive war. (they didn't dare to go that far from their own state in the North of Greece, because they had enslaved many other Greeks and these might rebel when the Spartans were outside their territory.)

It all was described in this T.V. production with a tone of great admiration and gratitude.
Yes, it all was described with a tone of thankfulness.

For - as the story goes - Spartans appeared to have been able to obstruct the Persian attack for three days and that gave the rest of Greece enough confidence to stike back efectively "and save our civilisation".

Just at the very, véry end it is said with another voice and tone,
that "it is rather odd" that the culture of the Spartans saved Greeces specific democratic city-cultures which we know in the West as "democracy".

Yes, that indeed is "rather odd".

To me the Spartan culture was by its own roots a disgusting, almost fascist culture that destroyed all that is specific human, except the body and brain and then ónly to serve as warrior.

"A superior race choosen by god to fight" was the way they saw and behaved themselves.

By accident this repulsive culture made it possible that other Greeks could defend their democratic states, but that had never been the basic aim of the Spartans.
By accident they also defended something good, indirectly.

To me it was a sickening culture.
Rotten to the core.

Our admiration of ancient "Greece" is much too slavishly.
Our gymnasia are much too easily a breeding place for it.
I did not want my daughter to go to it.
Too alienating from what I see as a good education.
She did learn Greek and Latin at another kind of school.

Well, that's my personal comment to what I know as the Spartan culture, shown by the docu at BBC 2 in 2004.

Greetings from Amsterdam, Alfredo


The program that came áfter this one at BBC-2, was called; "Journey to Hell" and was about Peter Owen, cousin of the warpoet Wilfred Owen who was in the trenches in France in the first World War.
Wilfred Owen wrote because of the letters of his cousin the poem;"the sentry".

Whát a difference !


Post 2


There is truth in what you say. There are elements of Spartan culture which feel very strange to us. I remember seeing the documentary myself and thought it a good description of the Spartan way of life. Myself I would have described the tone to be more of interest than admiration. In my opinion cultures are too complex to generalise about, whether that be positively or negatively. I would not describe it as 'sickening'.

I would say that it is only 'sickening' to our modern, Western viewpoint. There is nothing to say that our culture is by any means the 'best', after all. You are correct in saying the Sparta cared little for the individual, and that each man's role was to serve the state in war, but there are parallels to be drawn with many other Greek cities here. Democratic Athens kept slaves, and all its male citizens were soldiers (the only difference is that they led other lives as well, and were not professionals).

What I see in Sparta is a different culture, not necessarily a worse one. After all, women had surprising freedom (as it says in the entry) because their husbands had a lack of it in their military lives.

"Giving birth to a boy was "better" then to a girl." As many people believe it is now. Lots of expectant couples will say 'We're hoping for a boy' after all.

I don't think Sparta can be classified according to our modern values. It is very hard to understand the way they lived, but I don't think it is worthy of being described as 'repulsive' or 'sickening'. Personally I find many aspects of capitalist democracies equally sickening, but that is not to say capitalist democracies themselves are not a bad thing (though perhaps they are not a good thing either).


Post 3


Very interesting read and re-read,the only thing I can not know for sure--is the line "a barracks"boys after the age of 16...lived in a barracks.


Post 4


Sorry, I don't follow smiley - smiley. Do you mean that we do not know that they lived in a barracks after that age?

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