Saturday, January 26, 2008

Lawgiver legacy

Lycurgus, the legendary founder of the Spartan state (about 650BC)...He abolished debts, distributed land evenly, and set up training camps for war (the agon, from which we get the word 'agony'). At age seven, males left home to learn martial arts.

Infants considered to be defective-by the city elders, not the parents -were hurled off a cliff to die (in other Greek communities, the child was simply abandoned in the wild).

Spartan women were the most free of all the ancient cultures-they owned estates, could divorce, and inherit and conduct business and move freely about. (Athenian women lived secluded lives indoors).
Sparta had two kings simultaneously...Youth could steal food, but if caught, they were severely punished-for being caught. A form of adultery was permitted, when it might allow more births...
Men lived in barrack style mess halls, drinking boiled pigs blood with life was diminished (male and female homosexuality was compulsory) the individual subsumed into the collective communist martial ideal.
Slaves, or helots, vastly outnumbered the elite hoplite warriors. Sparta had no walls- 'spears' were used in their place...Women enforced the military code, by taunting the less than brave in the marketplace. Bachelors were ridiculed or shamed into finding a wife, around age 28. Sparta generally condemned writing and literature, as well as luxurious living.

Spartan valor has been forever immortalized by the sacrifice they made to save Greece from the invading Persians at the battle of Thermopylae 480BC (The Spartans were outnumbered 40 to 1)

The economic focus on slavery and war gradually reduced the population, until there were fewer than 500 Spartan soldiers left..(slave revolt issues)...

Strict obedience to the ideal of Lycurgus made 'change' an enemy, and helped cause the Theban victory(371BC) and later Roman takeover.


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