Friday, March 23, 2007

The Heroes: Spartans

The Greek state Sparta, as it existed in the last 5 centuries B.C., was founded on a set of ideas formed by Lykurgos. After fleeing Sparta in 776 B.C., Lykurgos first went to Crete and then to Asia and Egypt and later to Libya, Spain and India. In every country that he visited, he studied their civilization, history and constitutions. With this wealth of knowledge Lykurgos set out in preparing a constitution of his own, which he hoped to apply it to make his people, who claimed to be descendants of Hercules, as great as their ancestry proclaimed them to be.

To demonstrate the core values of the constitution and to persuade the Spartans to accept his laws, which demanded many sacrifices, he bred two small puppies. One bred indoors with a variety of foods and the other he trained for hunting. He then gathered the people and showed them that the untrained pampered dog was utterly useless.

The Spartans began to embrace this ideology of discipline, simplicity, and self-denial as the state expanded to meet the demand posed by their quickly growing population. Over the next 200 years, wars and revolts among the surrounding lands overwhelmed Sparta's stability, nearly crushing the Greek city state on multiple occasions.

This only reinvigorated the Spartans desire to follow Lykurgos's model. Their lives were designed to serve the state from their beginning to the age of sixty. The combination of this ideology, the education of Spartan males, and the disciplined maintenance of a standing army gave the Spartans the stability that had been threatened so dramatically in the previous revolts.

A Spartans life was marked with a lack of luxuries, expensive foods, and leisure time. While the Athenians and many others thought the Spartans were insane, the life of the Spartans seemed to hark back to a more basic way of life. Civilization is often seen as bringing disorder, weakness, and a decline in moral values. The Spartan, however, could point to Spartan society and argue that moral values and human courage and strength was as great as ever. Spartan society, then, exercised a profound pull on the surrounding city-states who admired the simplicity, discipline, and order of Spartan life. This established Sparta as the preeminent leader of Greece.

Even above their preeminence as a state in Greece, was their military power, which was highly regarded, as well as feared, the world over. Advanced use of armor and weapons combined with an unheard of emphasis on fighting tactics warranted this reputation. Their military supremacy was not known because of the Spartan soldier as an idividual, but because of their ability to fight together as a single unit, defending and supporting their comrade who fights with them on all sides. Each Spartan has a heightened awareness of his role in the unit, allowing for the full realization of the units potential.

But the power at the heart of Sparta's army is their mental mindset as they step into battle. A Spartan soldier finds joy and excitement in the thought of meeting one's match on the battle field. This provides the opportunity to achieve the greatest glory in life, to lie there life down for what they believe. A belief in freedom from oppression, and specifically in 480 B.C., oppression by a tyrant who fancied himself a god.

...Which will be covered in my next post in the series, "The Battle: Thermopylae"


Mirranda said...

Yes. The Spartans are amazing.

Just like we will be. :)

Although, somehow, I don't think I am quite fearless enough to be a real Spartan...

Aquila said...


That is the story of the second set of Spartans ever trained. Although the Spartan-11's don't exist yet, they very well could.

If you get a chance, since you like reading so much, read the Halo books. You'll see why I love the story line and video game so much, and not be a geek all the time. Halo: Fall of Reach, Halo: The Flood, Halo: First Strike, And Halo: Ghost of Onix.

See, there isn't much difference from the video game to the book, which is also why I love the author Eric Nylund, and the bungie team. They won't change a thing. The only disappointment was that the second book was written by another author, which was not the same style at all wich Eric Nylund, so I didn't like it too much.

But yeah bro. If you get a chance. You'll enjoy it. :)

This also brings me to want to see 300, and I still don't know when or what the story is with that here in NZ. But oh well. When I read the title on the ADs for the first time, and saw the main character, I immediately knew who it was.

Your end statement about the Battle of Thermopylae? In Halo, there were 75 Original Spartan-2 recruited forcefully from there homes at the age of 6. They weren't told. They were so militaryesk, that they only knew how to serve, and nothing else by the time they were 18. When they were put through extensive surgical enhancements to there body, which book 1 explains thoroughly, ( and also shows the medical history and research done to explain ) about how it was done, that only 35 there after survived the augmentations. Thats when they were also given there new battle armor, ( this is in the year 2552AD by the way ) And after they were attacked by the Covenant, ( aliens :P ) almost a handful was left. They counted 4 KIA as the most they have ever had. And by the end of the 3rd book, it shows only as 4 survive. 3 on planet reach, and 1 on the way to some unknown location, unconscious.

Enough rambling. This is how much I love the story.


David Knepprath said...

You touched on some very interesting aspects that I, regrettable, left out of my post (I had to draw the line somewhere, otherwise I would have ended up writing a thesis paper on Spartans). The parallelism to the creation process of a soldier in Halo is nearly identical to that of a boy in Sparta c. 500 B.C., right down to the age.

Aquila said...

Indeed. Thats the main reason, that the super soldiers in Halo, were known as Spartan-2s.

But yes. Even right down to the age, they were taken from their parents, but being in the future, they "flash cloned" the boys "AND" girls I might add. The clones ofcoursed weren't perfected clones, and therefore died due to diseases.

And speaking of femail soldier, in Halo, the fastest runner was a female name Kelly-034 as far as I remember, and another was Sam-038 who was stronger, and bigger then the rest. John-117 who is the main character who earned the rank of Master Chief, was only a good leader, and an exceptional soldier, but there were others with better skills then his, except for leadership. That I believe is the best weapon out of a Squad.

Matt said...

So hey...I saw 300...and I would just like to recommend that anyone interested in seeing it don't. It's just really bad as a story. The graphics are good and that's about it.

It's interesting that you mention freedom in your post, David, because that was something emphasized in the movie. It's odd because, talking to a history major friend of mine who I saw the movie with, he says that one of the main reasons that Sparta had to develop such a good army was to put down the insane number of slave revolts. Apparently, at at least certain points in their history, there were more slaves than free people in Sparta.

The freedom theme in the movie (and there was a huge one) smacked of "we love America", but maybe that's not as completely true as I thought...

David Knepprath said...

Funny, I haven't even talked about the movie yet. You might want to wait until you read my actual review of the movie before making assumptions.

Speaking historically, which is all I have been doing thus far, I never stated Sparta was anywhere near a perfected form of society. There was a lot worse then simple slavery going on. There was a highly stratified caste system, with most being seen, and treated, as less then human. Even worse, children were murdered upon birth if they appeared to be anything less then perfect (that was not just an exaggeration in the movie, it was a practice for society as a whole).

There are, however, many aspects found in Spartan culture which I believe to be very positive. Hence my fascination with Greek history.

Freedom. (Look at the specific context in which I use freedom)





...These (and more) are also things I connected with very much in the movie, but more to come on that later.

Melany said...

Interesting posts David. Do you have a class on Greek history, or have you been studying this for your own interest?

David Knepprath said...

I hope to some day, but no, all the research has been on my own time.

If you were curious about my sources, I have pulled a lot of my knowledge from websites that professors have made at various universities. I love the internet.

Matt said...

Wow, such harshness for such an innocent comment.

Aquila brought 300 up and since I've seen it I thought I'd talk about it.

Why are you so mean to me?

My thoughts on the movie still stand. I'm allowed to make artistic judgments before I hear your history lesson, right?

Bad movie.

I'm interested to see what connections you make between American and Spartan culture, especially as it relates to the movie.