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Is it true that Spartan soldiers fought naked?

Is it true that Spartan soldiers fought naked?


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I was watching a trailer for a movie called 300: Rise of an Empire. I noticed in this movie the Spartan soldiers from the chest and legs are naked.

But recently I read in several posts here in the This Site, that Celts fought a war naked, and being naked is extremely dangerous and deadly for an army. Why then were the Spartans naked?

Is it correct that the Spartans were almost naked? If yes, wasn't that a weak point for an army?


Hoplite and phalangite at the time of the Persian Wars preferred a linen upper body armour called linothorax. Unfortunately, no examples have survived from ancient times, and we can't be sure for the details of its construction. Bronze cuirasses were also used, but were too expensive for infantryman and probably impractical for regular use in battle. We can't be absolutely certain if the Spartans wore linothoraxes or cuirasses at Thermopylae, but the former is the more logical choice, given that agility and speed are essential when facing an army far superior in numbers and on unconventional terrain.

That said, the tradition of depicting ancient Greek warriors naked or semi-naked in works of art is a lot older than Hollywood:


Phalanx. Side A of an Attic black-figure Tyrrhenic amphora, ca. 560 BC


Knelt warrior with decladded sword: Achilles waiting for Troilus? Tondo of an Attic black-figure kylix, ca. 560 BC.


Rider with birds and a winged figure, perhaps Nike (Victory). Lakonian black-figured kylix, ca. 550-530 BC.


Greek applique with a nude swordman. Made in Lakonia (Sparta). Bronze, 550-525 BC


This question fits my definition of trivial. If you copy the question and paste it into google, three of the top five responses answer the question.

  1. One mentions the Hoplites
  2. I'll grant you that Yahoo answers answer is as sparse as the movie's armor.
  3. Roman Army Talk cites (unreliably) an interesting counterexample

The best answer is the first, from History vs Hollywood.

Did the Spartans really fight with virtually no body armor?

No. The movie 300 has the Spartan soldiers fighting nearly naked without any form of body armor protecting them. Body armor was a valuable asset to the real Spartan soldiers. 300 author Frank Miller commented on this alteration in an Entertainment Weekly interview, "I took those chest plates and leather skirts off of them for a reason. I wanted these guys to move and I wanted 'em to look good… Spartans, in full regalia, were almost indistinguishable except at a very close angle."

Clear, concise, and it even provides a picture of spartan armor. And an authoritative quote from Mr. Miller which ought to settle the question of why the movie portrayed them that way.


Another thing to take into account is that, in the archaic age particularly, armies would often meet on the field of battle and then agree to settle the differences by having one warrior from each side meet. This form of battle would have been more akin to the gladiatorial matches of later periods. Since the Greeks, and even the Romans to some extent, had a romanticized concept of naked warriors it is quite possible some of these matches might have taken place naked. By the classical age, these one-on-one contests were not as common. Soldiers would have wanted to wear as little as possible, especially if the weather was hot, but they would also want protection.

Hoplites usually wore greaves, vambraces, and a chest-plate. They would also carry a shield and spear, with some carrying a short sword as a secondary weapon. I have read accounts that the Spartans would occasionally cast aside their clothing and fight naked if they wanted to show total scorn to an enemy that they did not fear. Maybe there is something to that, but I have yet to see anything conclusive from primary sources that indicates this ever happened. On the other hand, while art is usually just art, sometimes it is a window on the society. Some ancient pottery art I have seen depicting the Spartans, while showing them with shields, helmets, and spears, shows them with nothing else on except a garment that covers about as much as the loincloths in 300, though of a different design.

http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/files/2013/02/hl-spartans.jpg">ShareImprove this answeredited Aug 20 '15 at 23:42answered Aug 15 '15 at 19:36Stephen E. SealeStephen E. Seale3141 silver badge5 bronze badges

Sparta: Growth Of An Empire – It Is Widely Known That The Spartans Produced Some Of The Most Brutally Efficient Warriors Of All Time

It is widely known that the Spartans produced some of the most brutally efficient warriors of all time, but how did they gain that reputation? How did they hold on to their culture built solely around war with almost all other work falling to slaves? Sparta is remembered not just because of their army, but because of their little-discussed empire, the Spartans commanded large areas of Greece and all of Greece at one point. What they achieved with their power allowed them to have the reputation as warriors and also have the proven results.

The Spartans resided in the large Peloponnese Peninsula of Greece, far inland and among the mountains. With no real need or a suitable location for a navy, the Spartans focused on their land army. As Sparta grew in power, they sought power over their neighbors. One such neighbor was the city of Argos, with their reputation for outstanding warriors.

When the two sides clashed, they agreed to fight a battle with 300 champions from each army. The two sides fought nearly to the death. Two Argos champions survived and left the battlefield but they did not see a wounded but alive Spartan, who remained and claimed a Spartan victory. The Argives were enraged that the Spartans claimed victory and set their army to invade Sparta. The two armies met at full strength minus their champions, and the Spartans prevailed, gaining large amounts of territory and having a slight hold over the Argives.

Over time, the martial skill of the Spartans won over most of the peninsula, either through direct conquest or with cities voluntarily allying themselves. By Jkan997 – CC BY-SA 3.0

Just before the first Persian invasion, the Spartans won another victory over Argos, and much of the Peloponnese voluntarily submitted to Spartan authority. Sparta disliked Tyrannical governments and often replaced or helped replace governments with a group, oligarchic rule. Though Sparta was not an absolute and all controlling leader of the Peloponnesus, they were the undisputed leader and chief authority of what would be known as the Peloponnesian League.

One of Sparta’s earliest mistakes was not arriving at the battle of Marathon in time. The decisive victory over the Persians by the Athenians was seen as a glorious defense of all things Greek and elevated the status of the already powerful city of Athens. Athens quickly became a rival power with their growing territory in Attica, across the Isthmus of Corinth from Sparta. By the time of the second Persian of Xerxes, Athens and Sparta were both solidified as the premier naval and land powers of Greece.

When Xerxes invaded with a large army and navy, the Greeks largely worked together to neutralize the threat. The famous stand at Thermopylae was a major defensive effort and heroically led by the Spartans. After the Persians had won the hard-fought battle of Thermopylae, they moved down into the plains of Attica near Athens. The Athenians were forced to abandon their city and were helpless as it was almost completely destroyed by the Persians.

Soon after the capture of Athens, the Persians were led into a naval trap where the Athenians and allies won a great victory near the island of Salamis. Though the naval victory was massive there was still a large Persian land army that needed to be dealt with, and at Plataea, the Greeks, under the command of Spartans won a great victory. The victory at Plataea coincided with a naval victory at Mycale, which was also led by a Spartan. With these victories, the Persians were forced out of Greece for good, and the Greeks could revert their focus inward.

After the war, Athens began the Delian League focused on organized resistance should the Persians ever invade again. A key aspect of the league was payment to Athens for leadership. The rationalization for the payment was Athens touted contributions and sacrifices during both Persian invasions. This league enabled the golden age of Athens and the city soon became supremely powerful within Greece and began to act more like a tyrant than the leader of a cooperative league. Soon Sparta separated themselves from this league and reestablished their Peloponnesian League.

The two great cities were perfect rivals in everything from military power, politics, territory and overall culture, so it was almost inevitable that they went to war in the 5 th century BCE. The Peloponnesian War(s) were some of the most violent conflicts in Greece. Greeks had often fought each other but this time, one-half of Greece was attacking the other. The Athenians sought to protect their tribute paying allies with their powerful navy while the Spartans largely focused on simply marching to Athens.

The Spartans would lose land battles, but also win naval battles during the long war. Spartan land forces were able to win victories to such a degree that they freely marched up to the walls of Athens, but they could not breach them, nor could they cut supply from the walled port. The stalemate was broken when the Spartans were able to win a great naval victory at Aegospotami that allowed them to completely encircle Athens on land and sea. This occurred after a terrible plague in Athens and a failed Athenian expedition to Sicily and finally forced Athens to surrender.

The walled port posed a problem to the Spartans trying to take Athens by land, but once they had a naval blockade the Athenians had no hope. These walls were taken down by the Spartans after their victory, but the city itself was spared.

With the subjugation of their greatest rival the Spartans solidified their Greek Empire. Though it was an empire in a very loose definition, the Spartans asserted control over all Greece, implementing oligarchical systems of government loyal to Sparta. The cost of attaining the empire, however, proved to be too much. Decades of fighting had greatly thinned the numbers of true Spartan soldiers while the Helot slave population remained relatively the same. When the rival Thebans won just one victory over the Spartans, the dynamic changed completely.

The battle of Leuctra was the first evenly matched large scale battle that the Spartans had lost, and legendary power of the Spartans faded with their loss. The Helots, who outnumbered Spartan citizens at least 5 to 1, revolted several times causing the Spartans to use what little Spartan warriors they had left to subdue the revolts. The Spartans would remain a regional power for generations, but their martial skill kept their reputation intact long after they fell to the Romans.


The Spartan War Machine

One effective method of developing the greatest fighters is to focus your entire culture around supporting the military. When any male Spartan child was born, it was determined whether he was strong enough to one day become a soldier in the Spartan army. If they were deemed unfit, they were killed, as weakness was not tolerated in Spartan society. At the age of 7, boys entered military training, called agoge.

For the next twenty years or more, the young men of Sparta were trained in military history, tactics, strategy and fighting skills. Sparta&rsquos warlike nature, particularly against its neighboring city-states of Greece, meant that they were in a perpetual state of preparedness, so a constant supply of talented, devoted soldiers was essential.

Those young men who didn&rsquot pass the agoge by the age of thirty would not be made full citizens (Spartiates) of the Spartan state, and would not be granted land in exchange for their military service. After more than two decades of training, if a man became a full citizen of Sparta, he could take up no other profession or trade that would distract him from his sole responsibility as a warrior. This made the core of Sparta&rsquos army the sort of muscled gods popularly shown movies, such as 300.

Photo Credit : 300 (movie) / warnerbros.co.uk

This unique social structure meant that being a soldier was the only way to participate in the state and earn respect. Two other classes of citizens also existed. Perioeci were non-citizens who lived nearby and supported the Spartan war effort in other ways, as merchants, craftsmen and other infrastructural roles. Helots were state-owned serfs, and represented the majority of the population. Everything in the Spartan culture existed to serve and strengthen the military might of the city-state. However, that doesn&rsquot fully explain Sparta&rsquos incredibly successful military history.


The Spartans Were Not Betrayed By A Deformed Outcast

What does that mean? Well, here is another fact: Ephialtes was not a Spartan, he lived in one of the regions surrounding the Hot Gates. He was also not deformed and he had nothing personal against the Spartans. He simply expected a reward from Persians in exchange for leading them behind the Greek lines. He was motivated by material things, nothing more. As a historical figure, he was not redeemable or sympathetic in any manner. Sounds… basic and a bit dull, does it not?

By making Ephialtes into a scorned Spartan, Miller added whole layers to the story. The Spartans did discard any baby who did not meet their standards of “perfection”. Ephialtes would have been murdered if his parents had not abandoned Sparta. That comes with a few implications: Ephialtes’s parents may have loved him, but they were also likely to despise him, if they were fanatic Spartans. They had to abandon their lives there, and while it was not his fault, they may have thought so. That was the first time Ephialtes was betrayed by Sparta and her ways. Spartans were raised with an extreme sense of duty to one’s nation and if one were deemed unable to fulfill that duty, they were nothing, as Ephialtes’s father perhaps informed him – repeatedly. Still, Ephialtes was trained by him as a warrior and did not turn his back on the idea of proving himself to Sparta of Sparta actually admitting she was wrong by accepting him as a soldier.

And then Leonidas rejected him for a second time, in spite of him being trained and, as the Spartan King admitted, quite capable with the spear. In that moment, Ephialtes felt like everything was a lie: his training, his beliefs so far, his parents’ “sacrifice,” it was all shattered. So, if he could not have what the Spartans had, he would take what the Persians offered. If he couldn’t be “rewarded” with equal treatment, he would be satisfied by revenge and materials. Thus, the Spartan King sealed his men’s fate because he could not, even for one moment, think differently and he couldn’t let go of his deeply held beliefs about who was “capable.” And when Ephialtes regrets his betrayal, it’s too late. To be clear, this is not a justification of Ephialtes’s actions as a character just an analysis of his motivations and an explanation as to why this fictionalized version of him and his motives makes for a better story.

At the end of the day, 300 is flawed with flawed heroes, like many a work of art before and after it. But the historical inaccuracies, blended with the true history, are there for a reason: in this fictionalized version of real events, many of these inaccuracies make for a more engaging narrative.


Spartan History Before Ancient Sparta

The story of Sparta typically begins in the 8th or 9th century B.C with the founding of the city of Sparta and the emergence of a unified Greek language. However, people had been living in the area where Sparta would be founded starting in the Neolithic Era, which dates back some 6,000 years.

It is believed civilization came to the Peloponnese with the Mycenaean, a Greek culture that rose to dominance alongside the Egyptians and the Hittites during the 2nd millennium BCE.

A Death mask, known as the Mask of Agamemnon, Mycenae, 16th century B.C, one of the most famous artifacts of Mycenaean Greece.

National Archaeological Museum [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Based on the extravagant buildings and palaces they built, the Mycenaeans are believed to have been a very prosperous culture, and they laid the foundation for a common Greek identity which would serve as a basis for the ancient history of Greece.

For example, the Odyssey and the Iliad, which were written in the 8th century BCE, were based on wars and conflicts fought during Mycenaean times, specifically the Trojan War, and they played an important role in creating a common culture amongst the divided Greeks, even though their historical accuracy has been called into question and they have been deemed pieces of literature, not historical accounts.

However, by the 12th century BCE, civilization across all of Europe and Asia was descending into collapse. A combination of climatic factors, political turmoil, and foreign invaders from tribes referred to as Sea People, brought life to a halt for some 300 years.

There are few historical records from this time, and archaeological evidence also indicates a significant slowdown, leading this period to be referred to as the Late Bronze Age Collapse.

However, shortly after the beginning of the final millennium BCE, civilization once again began to flourish, and the city of Sparta was to play a pivotal role in the ancient history of the region and the world.

The Dorian Invasion

In ancient times, the Greeks were divided into four subgroups: Dorian, Ionian, Achaean, and Aeolian. All spoke Greek, but each had its own dialect, which was the primary means of distinguishing each one.

They shared many cultural and linguistic norms, but tensions between the groups were typically high, and alliances were often formed on the basis of ethnicity.

During Mycenaean times, the Achaeans were the most likely the dominant group. Whether or not they existed alongside other ethnic groups, or if these other groups remained outside Mycenaean influence, is unclear, but we do know that after the fall of the Mycenaeans and the Late Bronze Age Collapse, the Dorians, became the most dominant ethnicity on the Peloponnese. The city of Sparta was founded by Dorians, and they worked to construct a myth that credited this demographic change with an orchestrated invasion of the Peloponnese by Dorians from the north of Greece, the region where it is believed the Doric dialect first developed.

However, most historians doubt whether this is the case. Some theories suggest the Dorians were nomadic pastoralists who gradually made their way south as the land changed and resource needs shifted, whereas others believe the Dorians had always existed in the Peloponnese but were oppressed by the ruling Achaeans. In this theory, the Dorians rose to prominence taking advantage of turmoil amongst the Achaean-led Mycenaeans. But again, there is not enough evidence to fully prove or disprove this theory, yet no one can deny that Dorian influence in the region greatly intensified during the early centuries of the last millennium BCE, and these Dorian roots would help set the stage for the founding of the city of Sparta and the development of a highly-militaristic culture that would eventually become a major player in the ancient world.

The Founding of Sparta

We do not have an exact date for the founding of the city state of Sparta, but most historians place it sometime around 950-900 BCE. It was founded by the Dorian tribes living in the region, but interestingly, Sparta came into existence not as a new city but rather as an agreement between four villages in the Eurotas Valley, Limnai, Kynosoura, Meso, and Pitana, to merge into one entity and combine forces. Later on, the village of Amyclae, which was located a bit further away, became part of Sparta.

This decision gave birth to the city state of Sparta, and it laid the foundation for one of the world’s greatest civilizations. It also is one of the main reasons why Sparta was forever governed by two kings, something that made it rather unique at the time.

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Sparta: Growth Of An Empire – It Is Widely Known That The Spartans Produced Some Of The Most Brutally Efficient Warriors Of All Time

It is widely known that the Spartans produced some of the most brutally efficient warriors of all time, but how did they gain that reputation? How did they hold on to their culture built solely around war with almost all other work falling to slaves? Sparta is remembered not just because of their army, but because of their little-discussed empire, the Spartans commanded large areas of Greece and all of Greece at one point. What they achieved with their power allowed them to have the reputation as warriors and also have the proven results.

The Spartans resided in the large Peloponnese Peninsula of Greece, far inland and among the mountains. With no real need or a suitable location for a navy, the Spartans focused on their land army. As Sparta grew in power, they sought power over their neighbors. One such neighbor was the city of Argos, with their reputation for outstanding warriors.

When the two sides clashed, they agreed to fight a battle with 300 champions from each army. The two sides fought nearly to the death. Two Argos champions survived and left the battlefield but they did not see a wounded but alive Spartan, who remained and claimed a Spartan victory. The Argives were enraged that the Spartans claimed victory and set their army to invade Sparta. The two armies met at full strength minus their champions, and the Spartans prevailed, gaining large amounts of territory and having a slight hold over the Argives.

Over time, the martial skill of the Spartans won over most of the peninsula, either through direct conquest or with cities voluntarily allying themselves. By Jkan997 – CC BY-SA 3.0

Just before the first Persian invasion, the Spartans won another victory over Argos, and much of the Peloponnese voluntarily submitted to Spartan authority. Sparta disliked Tyrannical governments and often replaced or helped replace governments with a group, oligarchic rule. Though Sparta was not an absolute and all controlling leader of the Peloponnesus, they were the undisputed leader and chief authority of what would be known as the Peloponnesian League.

One of Sparta’s earliest mistakes was not arriving at the battle of Marathon in time. The decisive victory over the Persians by the Athenians was seen as a glorious defense of all things Greek and elevated the status of the already powerful city of Athens. Athens quickly became a rival power with their growing territory in Attica, across the Isthmus of Corinth from Sparta. By the time of the second Persian of Xerxes, Athens and Sparta were both solidified as the premier naval and land powers of Greece.

When Xerxes invaded with a large army and navy, the Greeks largely worked together to neutralize the threat. The famous stand at Thermopylae was a major defensive effort and heroically led by the Spartans. After the Persians had won the hard-fought battle of Thermopylae, they moved down into the plains of Attica near Athens. The Athenians were forced to abandon their city and were helpless as it was almost completely destroyed by the Persians.

Soon after the capture of Athens, the Persians were led into a naval trap where the Athenians and allies won a great victory near the island of Salamis. Though the naval victory was massive there was still a large Persian land army that needed to be dealt with, and at Plataea, the Greeks, under the command of Spartans won a great victory. The victory at Plataea coincided with a naval victory at Mycale, which was also led by a Spartan. With these victories, the Persians were forced out of Greece for good, and the Greeks could revert their focus inward.

After the war, Athens began the Delian League focused on organized resistance should the Persians ever invade again. A key aspect of the league was payment to Athens for leadership. The rationalization for the payment was Athens touted contributions and sacrifices during both Persian invasions. This league enabled the golden age of Athens and the city soon became supremely powerful within Greece and began to act more like a tyrant than the leader of a cooperative league. Soon Sparta separated themselves from this league and reestablished their Peloponnesian League.

The two great cities were perfect rivals in everything from military power, politics, territory and overall culture, so it was almost inevitable that they went to war in the 5 th century BCE. The Peloponnesian War(s) were some of the most violent conflicts in Greece. Greeks had often fought each other but this time, one-half of Greece was attacking the other. The Athenians sought to protect their tribute paying allies with their powerful navy while the Spartans largely focused on simply marching to Athens.

The Spartans would lose land battles, but also win naval battles during the long war. Spartan land forces were able to win victories to such a degree that they freely marched up to the walls of Athens, but they could not breach them, nor could they cut supply from the walled port. The stalemate was broken when the Spartans were able to win a great naval victory at Aegospotami that allowed them to completely encircle Athens on land and sea. This occurred after a terrible plague in Athens and a failed Athenian expedition to Sicily and finally forced Athens to surrender.

The walled port posed a problem to the Spartans trying to take Athens by land, but once they had a naval blockade the Athenians had no hope. These walls were taken down by the Spartans after their victory, but the city itself was spared.

With the subjugation of their greatest rival the Spartans solidified their Greek Empire. Though it was an empire in a very loose definition, the Spartans asserted control over all Greece, implementing oligarchical systems of government loyal to Sparta. The cost of attaining the empire, however, proved to be too much. Decades of fighting had greatly thinned the numbers of true Spartan soldiers while the Helot slave population remained relatively the same. When the rival Thebans won just one victory over the Spartans, the dynamic changed completely.

The battle of Leuctra was the first evenly matched large scale battle that the Spartans had lost, and legendary power of the Spartans faded with their loss. The Helots, who outnumbered Spartan citizens at least 5 to 1, revolted several times causing the Spartans to use what little Spartan warriors they had left to subdue the revolts. The Spartans would remain a regional power for generations, but their martial skill kept their reputation intact long after they fell to the Romans.

The great Spartan Empire was short lived, but you could relive it and make it, even more, powerful with the new MMO game Sparta: War of Empires by Plarium.


Were the Spartans truly the greatest warriors of all time?

It will surprise precisely nobody that the 300 movies are not historically accurate portrayals of the Spartans, but the movies do lean on an existing myth. We all grew up thinking of the Spartans as the ultimate military badasses. Was this true?

The Spartan Triumphs

No one could deny that Spartans were one of the most impressively organized militaristic cultures in history. Their style of warfare, an eight-person-deep unwavering wall of shields and spears, broke nearly anyone who went up against them. Their intense training, starting at eight and officially lasting ten years – and unofficially never stopping – made for an absolute discipline. Their part in the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC is rightly acknowledged as one of the turning points of history.

In some ways, they are given too little credit. They weren't the guileless, undifferentiated blunt instrument they are so often made out to be. They had different fighting forces – armies, navies, and elite forces. Like all successful militaries, they employed and promoted crafty tacticians.

Spartans were among the first fighting forces to recognize the importance of spycraft and infiltration. The kryptea, a specially-trained unit, functioned as something between a spy agency and a secret police, keeping an eye on the conquered territories and on the troops at home. The Spartan empire, though small compared to world empires, was large compared to those of their neighbors. They held it for hundreds of years. This was not an accident.

The Society in the Background

It's now common knowledge that the Spartans were a slave-owning society. While a loss to the Persians would have meant enslavement for the Spartans, it might have meant freedom for the conquered territories around Sparta. What's not often discussed is the way being a slave-owning society shaped Sparta. From nearly the beginning, the slaves, or helots, outnumbered the Spartans.

All slave-owning societies fear a slave revolt. The Spartans had more to fear than most. The concerted militarism of their society wasn't an expression of athletic prowess, or an ideal of strength. It was the way they stayed alive. The more Sparta expanded, the less they could afford to let their guard down. Sparta, like many cultures with a secret police force, was a culture of paranoia.

During a helot uprising, Athens sent troops to help Sparta put the rebellion down. The Spartans sent the Athenians packing. They didn't want Athenian values disseminated among the Spartan population, and especially the helot population. Today, the Spartans are portrayed as a freedom-loving culture – even if they only valued their own freedom. In truth, their actions and thoughts were kept in line by the government and the law.

Which isn't to say the Spartans didn't enjoy some freedom. Their women enjoyed the greatest freedom in ancient Greek culture, and were encouraged to read, write, own land, speak up when it came to politics, and practice sports. The upper echelon of warrior men, who had survived battles and attained rank and power, were honored and given a free hand.

The dark side to this free hand is exemplified by no less than one of the fabled 300. Aristodemus was one of the warriors at Thermopylae. He and another soldier came down with eye infections at the beginning of the fight. Leonidas, their king and commander, ordered them to go home.

The other warrior, on the final day of battle, had a slave guide him to the field. Aristodemus, meanwhile, obeyed orders and went home. He was branded a "trembler," and suffered the fate of anyone judged to lack courage. He had patches sewn onto his cloak, letting everyone know he was a coward. All his acquaintances were to ignore him. If someone ordered him out of their way at public events, he had to obey, no matter who they were.

The Spartans were early eugenicists, and as Aristodemus had proved his genes were faulty, his daughters were no longer allowed to marry.

A year later, when the Spartans faced another incoming force of Persians, Aristodemus was allowed to fight, and ran eagerly to his death. His willingness to die was noted, his status as coward was officially revoked, and his children were no longer forbidden from breeding. Either Spartan soldiers would fight to the death, or Spartan society would make them wish they had.

None of this negates the impressive Spartan military victories, but it does put them in context. When we picture "warrior cultures" or "militaristic societies," they are often represented to us as cultures focused on honor, bravery, freedom, or even just the exhilaration of battle. That is the way many see the Spartans, and probably the way the Spartans saw themselves — but idealism wasn't what created their society. Their military was a practical solution to a problem. Eventually it became the only solution to that problem.

And though individual warriors were taught, and believed, that courage was the ultimate virtue, their idealism was braced by more than just morality. Each soldier knew he could risk his life and have everything, or keep it and have nothing. It was not death before dishonor. It was death before unending abuse and contempt.

The Spartans weren't alone at Thermopylae

Go, tell the Spartans, stranger passing by

That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.

This poem by Simonides of Ceos commemorates the most famous battle in western history. The attacking Persian army, forced to a choke point, was held at bay by a force of only 300 Spartans. And a few hundred of their slaves. And about a thousand other Greeks from different city-states. Also, there was a naval battle nearby, to keep the Persians from simply saying, "screw it," and sailing around the Spartan force.

The Persian invasion took place at an inconvenient time for the Spartans. The Olympics were happening, as well as a religious festival. If there was one thing the Spartans took as seriously as their fighting, it was their religion. They couldn't abandon the festivities, but everyone, including the other Greek city-states, knew the threat that the Persians posed. In the end, Leonidas led an elite group of 300 Spartans out to fight. (Leonidas might have felt especially pressured to go, as there were rumors that heɽ killed the previous king of Sparta and married that king's daughter in order to assume the throne.) Other city-states contributed soldiers, and the overall force at Thermopylae was 5000.

After a few days of fighting, during which the Greeks held the pass, the Persians found a goat path along the hills that would allow them to flank the Greeks. It's not clear on whether a traitor gave the Greeks up, or whether the Persians simply found it while scouting the area. (We should feel free to blame the goats, though.)

Greek runners stationed on the path warned Leonidas, and he ordered most of the other soldiers home. There was no question that the Spartans would stay. They also kindly volunteered their own slaves. What's surprising is the fact that at least a thousand other Greeks chose to stay, knowing that they were to be massacred. The Spartans led the forces at Thermopylae, and their bravery isn't in question. They weren't the only soldiers who bravely stayed. Not only weren't the Spartans the only ones to die at Thermopylae – they weren't even the majority. They did, however, have the best PR.

The Spartan Defeats

Even in their own time, Spartans were revered for their fighting ability. Their performance at Thermopylae became a contemporary myth, and some historians do believe that it rallied all of Greece to successfully resist the Persian encroachments. That being said, they were not undefeated.

The most infamous Spartan defeat was during the Peloponnesian War, a decades-long war between Athens and Sparta that started not long after the end of the Persian threat. The defeat shocked all of Greece, including Athens and Sparta, because the Spartans weren't just beaten. They surrendered.

It was the Battle of Sphacteria in 425 BC. Sphacteria was a little island, technically in Sparta's own territory, on which a Spartan force was isolated after a larger battle didn't go their way. The Athenians laid siege to the Spartans, who had sheltered against some cliffside terrain, showering them with arrows and eventually surrounding them. The 120 Spartans gave up their weapons and surrendered.

Even at the time, it was unheard of for a Spartan to surrender. When asked about it, one Spartan blamed the Athenians for attacking them with arrows, which he called "spindles," instead of "masculine weapons." In other words, "They were so wimpy that we had to surrender to them." The entire fiasco proved so crushing that Sparta sued for peace. The Athenians, full of confidence, let the peace talks break down – which they must have regretted when they lost the war in 404 BC. (It's telling that Sparta actually went to Persia for the money to raise the fleet of ships that they needed to defeat Athens.)

Another group to kick the Spartans around was the famous Sacred Band of Thebes. Thebes provided its own 300 super-soldiers, although they have never been the subject of a film, possibly because they were all lovers. It also possible that the Sacred Band never got their stories on film because, by the time they were formed, the Spartans had already taken some hits. Thebans formed the band just after they had kicked the Spartans out of their capital city. The Sacred Band won three different battles against Spartan forces.

In one of the battles, in 378 BC, they won simply by refusing to follow the Spartans onto unfavorable ground. The Spartans had breached outer blockades in front of Thebes and the Theban army retreated behind the inner walls. When the Spartans charged, hoping to make the Thebans break ranks, the Thebans were ordered to assume a resting posture, calling the Spartan's bluff. The Spartans left, and then predictably complained that they should be considered the winners of the battle because the Thebans hadn't fought them right.

The Sacred Band directly fought the Spartans on two different occasions, and were outnumbered each time. In Battle of Tegyra, outnumbered two to one, they killed the Spartan commanders and charged the ranks so boldly that the Spartans opened up a channel, assuming the Thebans would use it to escape. Instead, they attacked from within and routed the Spartan troops. In the Battle of Leuctra, the Theban cavalry made short work of the Spartan ground forces, despite the fact that the Thebans commanded a force of 6000 to the Spartans' 10,000.

In the end, the Spartans' greatest defeat came at the hands of their own slaves. The military defeats took their toll on Sparta, as did the Spartans' slow accumulation of enemies. Eventually, the catastrophe that the Spartans had built their culture to avoid happened, and the helots successfully rebelled. Sparta was built on slavery, and with most of its slaves gone it was impoverished. It dissolved into a kind of Disneyland, where traditional Spartan rituals were performed for money in front of visitors. Its last king died trying to raise money for the city by fighting as a mercenary.

No country falls gracefully, and no entity can live up to its myth. The point of myth is to take an inspiring story and turn it into a perfect one. The Spartan legend, the legend of the supersoldiers, while based on reality, wasn't entirely applicable even in the Spartans' own time. The myth of the 300, of Thermopylae, and of Sparta as a culture of perfect warriors, has value. The reality of Sparta as an imperfect society does as well.


Sparta, from Menelaos to Lycurgus

Of course, elements of this new syntax of the war have appeared since the early epochs: ancient historians of ancient Greece often invoke a tradition that goes up to the Homeric epic. But the conjunction that leads to the generalization of the hoplite phalanx achieves an ideal of equality and reciprocity on the battlefield, extended from a military and aristocratic elite to the whole armed people.

The classic case, clearly showing and demonstrating the homology of these innovations at all levels – social, political, military and mentality – remains Sparta of the 7th century BC. The proeminent city-state of Sparta, dominating the plain of Laconia in the Peloponnese, was famous since the Homeric epic, where is described as being ruled by Menelaos Atrides himself, brother of Agamemnon and husband Elena left for the Trojan prince Paris / Alexandros.

In fact, Sparta itself doesn’t seem to have been the heart of bronze civilization. The true glory of Sparta is related to the generalization of iron metallurgy, concurrent with the diffusion of epics, at the beginning of the first millennium BC: the territory that the city controls is remarkably rich in iron ore.

Due to this, but also due to the fertility of Laconia, as well as other less obvious circumstances, Sparta still distinguishes itself during the first centuries of crystallization of the Greek cities through the totally unusual dimensions of the territory it controls: towards the middle of the 6th century BC, after the conquest of Messenia, Sparta ruled with the words of Thucydides, two fifths of the Peloponnese (Thuc., 1.10.2), that is, about 8,500 km2. Athens, which was the only city of the territory comparable as surface, was dominating the Attica with only 2,500 km2.

The intelligible sequence of the events of the social-political history of Sparta is evoked by most of the ancient sources starting from a state of “dusnomia”, internal discord, followed by the reforms attributed to Lycurgus, who established good order, the eunomia, for which the city of Lacedemone will be greatly praised in the historical and philosophical literature of antiquity and not only.


3 There Are Three Reasons Why The Name SPARTAN Was Chosen

The first reason that the SPARTAN name was chosen was obviously because of the historical inspirations that came from being Spartans. Historically, Spartans were boys that were trained from a young age. This leads to the second reason for the name in which Dr. Halsey was inspired by the Battle of Thermopylae and how the original Greek Spartans were cherished throughout history.

However, the final reason is the fact that by training the characters from childhood to adulthood, they would be able to become the perfect soldiers. As Dr. Halsey claims in her notes, "the beginning of wisdom is ignorance."


Conclusion

The famous philosopher Plato gave the idea to form an army from gay couples. He observed homosexual couples exhibiting total devotion to each other. They fought with ferocity and courage.

The modern ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy on the military service by gay men didn’t apply to the Greeks.

After the destruction of the Sacred Band of Thebes, there was no other case of a gay army in history.


Watch the video: Traktor Festival Nedvězí 2019 (October 2022).

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