Athens and Sparta are known as the two most promin
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Athens and Sparta are known as the two most prominent city-states of ancient Greece. Today, historians have a clear picture of what made the two societies so great, but if a historian were to come across a few primary sources of the time, would they still be able to draw some of the same conclusions? From reading Xenophon's "Constitution of the Spartans," Thucydides' "Pericles Funeral Oration," and "The Melian Dialogue," one can deduce somewhat broad truths of both Athens and Sparta rather accurately.
Xenophon, in his "Constitution of the Spartans," describes in detail what makes up the Spartan identity. Xenophon speaks of Lycurgus, the Spartan lawgiver, and emphasizes how Lycurgus' law system helped produce a very unique and proud people. From birth, the Spartan people begin their somewhat mechanical construction. Unlike other civilizations in the fifth century, Sparta actually encouraged, rather required, women to undergo training. Of course, because the ideal man in Sparta is a stone-cold warrior, Lycurgus "insisted on physical training for the female," (Xenophon, 2) not academic. This institution was due to Lycurgus' belief that "if both parents [were] strong, they [would] produce more vigorous offspring" (Xenophon, 2). For the men to be seen as strong, they also had to endure physical training and were expected to marry in the peak of their manhood in order to produce "fine children" (Xenophon, 2). These institutions merely scratched the surface of all the rules a Spartan citizen was to obey and values they must exemplify.
The Spartan system of education is best described as an incredibly supervised and rigorous training in preparation for a future as fighting men. Spartans who filled the highest of offices were appointed as young boys' Warden; the Warden was "to take charge of [the boys] and punish them severely in case of misconduct…with whips" (Xenophon, 3) when necessary. From their youth, the boys are trained to brave harsh conditions. For example, boys were require to "harden their feet by going without shoes" (Xenophon, 3) instead of using sandals. With this preparation, it was believed that "a youth who had accustomed himself to go barefoot would leap and jump and run more nimbly than a boy in sandals" (Xenophon, 3). Similarly, the boys wore only one garment throughout the year to prepare for harsh weather conditions. The Warden was also in charge of the boys' food supply; this amount was never enough, and was in fact meant to keep the boys somewhat hungry so that they would grow accustomed to being without food. These practices were meant to help foster strength and resourcefulness in the boys.
Also characteristic of the system of education in Sparta was the responsibility shared with all citizens to punish the boys for any misconduct. Because of this, "the boys are never without a ruler" (Xenophon, 4). Every father in Sparta had the same authority over any young man as their own son—even to whip the boy if need be. It was pretty much impossible to misbehave or give into temptation in Sparta. Once the young boys became older, called ‘young lads,' they were freed from their warden and expected to act appropriately of their own accord, but were given an indefinite amount of work to complete. If the lads disregarded their duties, they were to be "[excluded] from all future honors" (Xenophon 5). Honor and modesty were very important values to uphold as a Spartan. Lycurgus went as far as to promote interaction with the youths and the elders to "contribute largely to [their] education… [and therefore leave] little room for insolence or drunken uproar" (Xenophon, 6). The lads even had to walk a certain way; they were required "to keep their hands under their cloaks, … walk in silence, [and] not look about them, but to fix their eyes on the ground," (Xenophon, 5) representing stone-like men.
Although most of Lycurgus' laws were for the cultivation of warriors primarily, some of his institutions also promoted a sense of community and trust in Sparta. Citizens were allowed to borrow "other men's servants in case of necessity," (Xenophon 7) and others' horses as well as carriages could also be used as long as they were restored in the end. Those with excess
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