- Introduction -
Ancient Sparta was a completely state controlled society and could be viewed as a dictatorial one by modern democratic standards. However Sparta's controlled 'warrior society' could well have been the reason it rose to such great military heights.
Throughout Sparta, state organised scrutiny of young children was common. In fact, shortly after birth babies were examined closely by government officials who decided whether the children were healthy enough. Tragically, if any of them were not, they were left to die. While unhealthy children were killed cruelly, life for the surviving Spartans was in no way easy. Bullying was encouraged by teachers, peers, and parents. Resources were deliberately restricted and youths were viciously flogged for no reason. Because they believed that money should not be treasured, the Spartan government employed an intriguing idea. They used heavy iron bars, rather than the usual small-coin currency, to keep theft to a minimum.
As an exercise of power over the people, the Spartan government carefully recruited upstanding young men to serve in their elite secret police, the Crypteia. The Spartan government was led by two kings, one of whom could stay behind to run the country during times of war while the other could lead the Spartan army to battle. Because of it's two kings and it's effective army, Sparta would have been incredibly hard to defeat. All of Sparta's children were educated in state run schools using the state education system called the Agoge. To reward it's men citizens, (all of whom served in the army) the Spartan government distributed large numbers of farms and properties among them.
Soldiers were held in high regard throughout the land of Sparta. Military training would commence at the young age of seven, and continued until soldiers-in-training were twenty, at this age men were enlisted into the army. After enlistment, Spartan soldiers would receive their uniforms.
Uniforms and equipment included the following: a sword, javelin, helmet, breastplate, and a few other items. Some of the most fascinating elements of a Spartan man's uniform were his red cloak, (designed to hide blood wounds) and his large round shield. When sending their sons off to war, mothers were known to say, "Come back with this shield, or dead on it." Spartan warriors, who fought so fiercely in battle, achieved greatly while competing in the Olympic games. Because of their success in the Olympic games, Spartan men were chosen to defend Mount Olympus when Greece was under attack. During a Persian invasion of Greece, a force of three-hundred Spartan troops led six-thousand Greeks to great effect against as many as one-hundred fifty-thousand Persian troops (ancient sources say in the millions).
Certainly Sparta was guilty of many horrific deeds, but don't we see many of these same things being mirrored in modern society today? For us, Sparta can be an example of how dictatorial a nation can become, even in the name of protecting it's citizens.
Researched and Written By
Cody B. Mitchell
Summary: An Ancient civilization in Greece well-known for their stamina and basic lifestyle
Date: 6th Century BC
Location: Greece (on the Peloponnesian peninsular), Europe
Sparta, an Ancient Totalitarian State, was the most powerful military power of its time. Find out how it grew to such heights.