Religion, Death and Burial in Spartan Society

Topics: Sparta, Battle of Thermopylae, Ancient Greece Pages: 3 (989 words) Published: February 21, 2011
Religion, death and burial

Religion played a central role in Spartan society in the ancient world. In addition to being well known for their fierce fighting force, Spartans were well known amongst other Greek city-states for their devotion and serious attitude towards religion and the gods. Because of their strict devotion to religious practises, they were often mocked by other Greek states. The gods were to be obeyed completely and were to be respected completely by all Spartans, though in theory, this relationship between the Spartans and the gods was believed to have been based on mutual respect. Religion was seen as a way of combining the gods with everyday social and political/governmental aspects of Spartan society, so much so that Spartan kings also served as chief priests.

There are numerous sources from Ancient Greek writers providing evidence that Spartans took their religion very seriously. For example, Herodotus recorded that in 480 BC, King Leonidas lead a small army consisting of 300 Spartans (with several thousand other Greek soldiers), who were to confront the powerful Persian army in a battle which is now known as the Battle of Thermopylae. The reason that Sparta only sent forth 300 soldiers to the battle because Sparta was in the middle of the religious festival of the Karneia, and according to Herodotus, the Spartans would only ‘march with all the troops at their disposal’ at the conclusion of this celebration. In ancient times, the Greeks shared in common many gods and other religious aspects of society. As recorded by Herodotus, the Athenians told the Spartans, We are all Greeks sharing both the same blood and the same language and we have temples of our gods in common and our sacrifices. Though the gods worshipped were the same, there were gods of differing importance who may have been more important to specific city-states. To the Spartans, one of the most important gods were the mythical twin heroes the Dioscuri (meaning ‘youths...

Bibliography: Kathryn Welch, Spartan Society in Spartan Society to the battle of Leuctra 371 BC, St John the Evangelist Catholic High School, 2010, pg. 57-60
Plutarch, The Lives of Noble Grecians and Romans, Random House Inc., 1864
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