Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Land of the Spartans

In the south central Peloponnese lie two mountain ranges: the Taygetos and the Parnon. Each reaches eight thousand feet above the central valley -- a valley so fertile there can be two harvests in a single year.


In the middle of this valley we find Sparta; the ancient Greek city which, for the entire world, has symbolized obsession, devotion, and military might. Five towns became Sparta in the 700s B.C; Amyklae, Pitana, Limnae, Mesoa, and Cynosura. Amyklae was three miles distant, lying to the south of the others. These were Dorian towns and the citizens spoke Dorian Greek.

For the first five hundred years there was no wall around the city. Perhaps it was impractical to include Amyklae, and to exclude it was unacceptable. Then again, the Spartans considered city walls effeminate.

It was Lycurgus who, in a time of great stress, convinced the Spartan people to adopt a new way of life – create a warrior class to protect Sparta from a revolt of the Messenian Helots. But it was a pact with the devil, because the subjugation of a people as slaves, requires the military might to hold down the inevitable revolts.

So the Agoge was adopted; twenty years military training for all young men starting when they reached age seven. Living together and fighting together – a lifelong bond between warriors.

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