Spartan Society - Year 12 Ancient History Assignment

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(a)He was believed to be the creator of the Spartan society and how it functioned. Most of the Spartans thought him as a God-like figure and worshipped him. There is no certain source or a piece of evidence about Lycurgus and archeological records contradicted his existence often. Even Spartans had no idea of what Lycurgus looked like but there were his portraits and statues as what people imagined how a wise lawgiver would look like. (b)The Hyakinthia festival

This was a festival named after Hyakinthos, a youth who was lover of the god Apollo and died when Apollo accidentally hit him with a discus. The flower of the red hyacinth was believed to have sprung from his blood. In his grief, Apollo ordained an annual festival. This festival was held at the ancient shrine of Amyclae (about five kilometres from Sparta). This site was the location of a huge statue of Apollo, the tomb of Hyakinthos and an open area for festival dances. The festival took place over three days in the (summer) month of July. Athenaeus, writing in the 2nd century A.D., has given an account of this festival, which basically revolves around mourning for Hyakinthos, and praise of Apollo: The festival had two stages:

1. The first stage involved rites of sorrow and mourning in honour of Hyakinthos. There was a ban on the wearing of wreaths and on joyful songs. Offerings were placed at the dead youth’s tomb. The eating of bread and cakes was forbidden; there was a special funeral meal, then a day of ritual grief. 2. The second stage involved rejoicing in honour of Apollo, the wearing of wreaths, the singing of joyful songs, sacrifice to Apollo, a festive meal, a procession to Amyclae, choral song and dance. The historian Hooker has interpreted the festival as a festival for the dead on one hand, combined with a thanksgiving for life on the other.

The Gymnopaediae festival
This was 'The Festival of the Unarmed Boys'. The festival was held in the Spartan agora (market place). It commemorated the battle of Thyrea fought against Argos c.550 B.C. The festival featured: choral performances; the setting up of images of Apollo and Artemis “boxing” amongst boys and men. Although much has been written about the violent aspect of the festival, it has been interpreted as a 'rite of passage'; on the way to manhood, an initiation that indicated membership or belonging to the community. The Gymnipaediae were celebrated in July, the hottest part of the year. The festival consisted of a series of athletic competitions and musical events among boys and men. Dancing and running in tough conditions proved the strength of the Spartan citizens to the onlookers. In its early context it was part of the whole warrior code to initiate the young soldier to a life of physical excellence. It was not confined to Sparta. This festival was a thank-offering to Apollo for military success.

(c)Religion in Sparta, like in many civilizations, had a commitment to support the ideals of a militaristic society. The Spartan ideal of an elite military state influenced the approach to religion and the ways in which religion would be molded to suite state doctrine, therefore highlighting the importance of religion in upholding the values of Spartan society such as endurance, loyalty, obedience, conformity, and skill. Religion was also use to create social coherence, important in promoting conformity and in controlling the society under the ideals of the military state. At an individual level religion provided a way of ensuring fertility both human and natural as well as averting disaster and ensuring victory in war. Religion was important for the State and this could also be seen in the wartime practices of the Spartan Army. According to Powell, Spartans believed in military divination, following an army to war was a herd of sacrificial animals ready to appease the Gods. Consultative sacrifices were held before embarking on a military campaign, before a battle and when...
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