Culture Study of Spartan Society

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  • Topic: Sparta, Ancient Greece, Battle of Thermopylae
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CULTURE STUDY OF SPARTAN SOCIETY

Michael Labelle HIST111: World History before 1650 Dr. Timothy Hayburn October 11, 2012

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  As a culture, the Spartans were very unique in their pursuit for prosperity. Morality, honor, courage, discipline and commitment were evident in every aspect of Spartan lifestyle. The code of ethics, in which Spartan society lived by, were unmatched by any other Greek society and was the embodiment by which they where able to thrive as a culture. As fanatical as the Spartans may have been in their culture, many of their concepts hold true in the modern day society. Concepts such as earning citizenship and “service before self” are just a couple of examples that many societies use as the foundation onto which they hope to design their social structure. Yet, many countries may not be willing to go to the extremes as the ancient Spartan. Ultimately, how were the Spartans able to implement their principles under military style conditions and still flourish as society? Although martial law, or a military society, may invoke thoughts of repressed citizens and extremism with regard to military control, the Spartans managed to institute their principles onto their society that encourage prosperity and enabled a sense of pride from their people. In order to achieve an understanding of this ancient Greek culture, geography, social structure and interaction, the process of indoctrination and training will be examined in order to capture the true essence of this ancient society. Geography of Greece Situated in the northeastern region of the Mediterranean, much of Greece’s physical geography consists of mountainous terrain and a surrounding archipelago. Mostly comprised of individual city-states or polis1, Greece’s cities were principally organized according to alliances in the region. An advantage which Greece had within this region was its location within the Mediterranean and the abundance of islands from which Greece was able to establish a welldefined naval force in which to protect its trade routes and surrounding waters. While the Spartans (properly speaking, the Lacedaemonians2) controlled Peloponnesus, the southern Tim Hayburn 10/28/12 4:06 PM Comment [2]: Put

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  Tim Hayburn 10/28/12 4:06 PM Comment [1]: Awkward
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  peninsula of Greece-proper on the ground, the remaining Grecian military (principally their naval force) controlled the seas with their naval forces. Greece capitalized on these combined strengths to render any invasion by other empires nearly impossible, if not suicidal. The Spartans in particular were admired throughout the region for their ferocity, skill and intellect in the art of warfare and where the dominant power in Hellas.3 Social structure Where other city-states pursued different lives, the people of Sparta developed into a martial culture whose trade craft was to become the skilled master-at-arms and dominated the Hoplite system. Despite their military mindset, the Spartan social structure was complex in nature (comparable to a republic form of government in modern day society) and was divided into three major groups: full blooded Spartan, Perioicoi, and Helots. Full blooded Spartans, or Spartiates4, were considered the principle warriors of Sparta and were able to enjoy all the privileges of citizenship. The second was that of the Perioicoi, those people who were not full citizens but lived in the surrounding area of Lacedaemonia; these were primarily farmers and merchants. Despite being a non-citizen of Sparta, Perioicoi could be accepted into the Spartan training regiment, but admission was very limited for non-citizens as Spartans were very apprehensive on allowing outsiders to train within...
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