Militaristic Nature Of Spartan Society Essay, Research Paper
Spartan society was structured around the army, always ready to fight or defend if the need arose. Spartan males were the only ones permitted to serve in the army though, and due to the males devotion to warfare the lives of everyone in the polis of Sparta were also greatly affected. This militaristic nature of the Spartans had an impact on the female members of the polis, the helots and the perioeci. The government was also impacted.
Military training for a Spartan male began when he was still a boy, at the age of seven. The training began at such an early age to instill the notion that serving in the army was the greatest achievement for a Spartan. As the boys progressed in age their training intensified. Part of their training was to go barefoot at all times in order to run faster and scale heights better. They were also served only small amounts of food in order to make them tougher and stealing was sometimes acceptable – as long as they weren’t caught. Stealing was permitted because they believed it made the boys craftier, while at the same time it refined their warlike skills. It is clear that Spartans valued military training above all else, even permitting stealing as long as it benefited their training. When the males reached the age of twenty they were permitted to marry but their lives were still dedicated mainly to the army. They only visited their wife in secrecy. This goes to show that even their private lives were sacrificed due to the needs of the military. Only at the age of thirty, when they became full Spartan citizens did the males begin to have a social life. They had the right to participate in the assembly and also moved out of the barracks, instead living with their wives and family. Spartan males were still heavily active in the army right up until they reached sixty and even then the army had some impact on their lives.
The lives of Spartan women were substantially impacted by the militaristic nature of the Spartan society. Spartan women were forced to take a more involved part in society because their husbands spent most of their time at the barracks, training. As well as looking after the house the Spartan women looked after the land, organising which jobs the helots needed to undertake.
The lives of girls were also affected as the Spartans believed that healthy women produced healthy babies. Due to this, girls underwent vigorous physical training, participating in most sports with the boys. When they became women it was hoped that all the training would pay off and they would become mothers of fine warrior sons, again showing they were affected greatly by Spartas devotion to the military.
The militaristic nature of Spartan society extended even to the government. The Government had to be extremely stable, if Sparta was to always be ready for war. Sparta was ruled under a dual kingship, each king having equal power. The kings were the supreme commanders of the army but only one of them was selected to lead a campaign, while the other remained in Sparta. If the campaign was successful then the king who led the campaign was highly praised for his leadership skills but if the campaign failed then he could be recalled and heavily punished.
The council consisted of twenty eight members plus the two kings and membership was restricted to Spartans over sixty years of age who didn’t serve in the army anymore. These members held their office for life, as it was a reward for merit. If a Spartan served the army well and courageously then it would increase his chance of being elected by the assembly as a member of the council.
The ephors were powerful people in Spartan society and had a great deal of impact on the army. Incase of war the ephors decided who would go, they even gave instructions to the generals and recalled them if they failed. They had total control of the training and discipline of the young males and also chose the three captains of the elite force of the Spartan army. Due to the large masses of the helots the ephors had power of the krypteia (secret police) to keep the helots under control.
Membership in the assembly was offered to all Spartan citizens over the age of thirty, providing they hadn’t lost their citizenship. Spartas militaristic nature impacted the assembly because the assembly needed to vote on the matters concerning war or peace.
The main way in which Spartas militaristic nature had an impact on the perioeci was that their villages served as a wall or buffer zone against escaping helots and all of the adult male perioeci were expected to serve as foot soldiers along Spartiates, but they weren’t involved in training. The perioeci were also involved in trade and commerce with the Spartiates. This enabled the Spartiates to focus their time on military matters. The perioeci had their own form of government but they owed their allegiance to Sparta and paid revenue to the Spartan kings.
The helots were the lowest class of people in Spartan society. The helots were forced to work on farms and produce food for the Spartans, enabling the Spartiates time to devote themselves fully to military training. Spartans militaristic nature is mainly due to the fact that the helots were a constant threat to Spartan security because they outnumbered the Spartans twenty to one. Since they were conquered by the Spartans they were rebellious and the Spartans had to keep them under control with the force of their army. Spartans couldn’t worry about conquering other lands because they always had to be alert and ready incase of a helot uprising
The militaristic nature of Spartan society had an impact on all members of the polis. Though the army only consisted of Spartan males it has clearly been shown that Spartan females, the perioeci and the helots were also largely affected. Women had to take on larger responsibilities, the perioeci had to respond to Sparta for everything and the helots were treated badly to be kept under control. The structure and election of the Spartan government was also effected by Spartas militaristic nature. Though it may be hard to imagine a society structured wholly around it’s military, that was how the Spartan society was and it was the only way the Spartans new how to live.