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The Golden Age of Greece – the Spartans
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  2/18/12
By: Yona Williams

Lycurgus.jpg
Around 800 BC, Lycurgus founded the Spartans, and soon cultivated a reputation for being great military leaders. The first Spartans were known as the Lacedemonians and they had control over the Peloponessos. The first Spartans weren’t so centered on military affairs – they actually produced art, poetry and music just like the other Greek civilizations of their time.

 However, a war fought against their neighbors in Messinia set the wheels in motion for a new direction. The war was much different than the other kinds that ancient Greece had seen. The invading army fought, won and established a treaty. When they left, the Spartans turned the entire population of Messinia into slaves (called helots) that were on the same level as serfs that worked the land for the Spartans. The helots outnumbered the Spartans, which prompted them to develop a society that would protect the people from a revolt from within and outside enemies.

Learning to art of warfare started at a very young age. The male children were taken from their mothers to live in the barracks with other men. They learned how to serve the state and defend the city. When children were unhealthy, sickly, or weak – they were killed or left to die. The Spartans believed that the purpose of their lives were to defend the state.

The Spartans drafted their own Constitution with the help of Lycurgus, who had traveled to Crete and Ionia to study different governments. He had read the epics of Homer, which was a strong influence on how a nation should thrive. Lycurgus also traveled to Delphi to receive guidance. The Oracle told him that his laws would make Sparta famous. When he returned to the city-state, he had to convince his influential friends of his plans. He was eventually successful in getting his friends and the rest of the Spartans in agreement with the potential of his reforms. He convinced the people that they would bring glory and power to Sparta.

The Spartans adopted a system of government that included two kings, five executives (called ephors), and a council comprised of 30 elders. They would also have a general assembly made up of all male citizens. Only the elite were given full citizenship. They were called the Spartiates and they spent a lot of time training for and fighting in wares. On the home front, the helots worked the land and were responsible for providing food that was served as communal mess halls. The Spartiates were expected to contribute a certain quota of produce every month. If they were unable to meet the expectations, they were kicked out and labeled as part of the inferior classes.

The girls in society exercised and stayed strong – they were expected to give birth to strong men. Young boys learned how to read and write but their main goal in education was to learn how to become a brave, strong man.


 

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