If you have ever criticized China for favoring the birth of boys over girls, then you may frown at the way ancient Greek Spartans dealt with the birth of deformed, weak or unhealthy babies. In this article, we will take a look at the unnatural selection of the perfect citizens of Sparta.
Located in the southern part of Greece, Sparta was seen as a militarist state, which also had control of Laconia and Messenia. During ancient times, this was considered to be the most powerful state in all of Peloponnesus. When the Classical times were established, the notion of Sparta as a world power was known. It was once referred to as the natural protector of Greece and respected as such. Some of the allure, confidence and power of the Spartans mainly came from a belief that they were direct children and descendents of the strong and powerful Greek God, Hercules.
Spartans hold discipline and simplicity high in the ranks of what is important to them. This is what probably contributed to the Spartan inhabitants, who were intensely loyal to their city-state. If you want to talk about peer pressure and how brutal the demands of society can be on a person, Spartans were expected to possess the perfect body. This was a requirement for both the male and female citizens of the area. This was a pressure that was felt before the citizens were even able to walk and talk and if you didn’t measure up, then you didn’t even make it past your first birthday.
When a new birth is reported during ancient Spartan times, the new parents were greeted by an onslaught of Spartan soldiers, whose job was to inspect the newborn. Unhealthy, weak or deformed babes were not given a chance to live. If they did not meet the Spartan standards, they were taken away from their parents. This was not an act that could be contested by any of the parents. Two different fates were in the future for this infant. He or she was left to perish on the side of a hill away from the city or their life was spared and they were trained to become a slave, which was referred to as a helof during those times. The lucky babies born without any visible damage were assigned a certain type of membership, which gave them an in with a particular brotherhood or sisterhood. Usually, they would become a member of the same group that their mother or father was part of.
If you think that the unnatural selection of future citizens was cruel, you should know that Sparta is responsible for a variety of “firsts” throughout history. Sparta may possibly be the first democracy detailed within recorded history. Some researchers believe that it may have surpassed the Athenian’s advances in this field. Sparta was the only Greek city-state to use land reform to establish equal wealth among citizens. They were also the only Greek city-state to allow women to enjoy the right to public education, as well as the right to inheritance.