Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sayings of the Spartans

The militaristic Spartan culture touched every aspect of the lives of its people – even the use of language and speaking style. A “laconic” person is a man of few words; a characteristic of the Spartans well known to all the Greek people. The word is derived from Laconia, the district where Sparta can be found.

Those of you who saw “300” heard a few Spartan sayings including, “Spartans lay down your arms. Come and get them” and "If the Persian arrows block the sun, then we will fight in the shade.” These are actual historical quotes. Now for some you may not have heard.

A Spartan was asked, “How far do Sparta’s boundaries reach?” The Spartan answered, holding out his spear “As far as this can reach.”

Someone asked why Sparta had no walls or fortifications and the Spartan said pointing to a group of soldiers, “These are our walls.”

The Spartan army was passing by a city with high walls. One Spartan admired the fortification. Another said, “What women live in this place?”

A king was asked, “When you go to battle, how do you take into account the size of your opponent?” The king said, “Spartans don’t ask how many the enemy are, but where they are.”

A man was ridiculing the small size of the Spartan swords when the Spartan replied, “They can still reach the enemy.”

An Athenian remarked, “We have often driven you from Cephius” (a river near Athens). The Spartan replied, “Ah, but we have never driven you from the Eurotas” (a river near Sparta).

Someone asked, “After your frequent wars with the Argives, why have you not wiped them out?” The Spartan replied, “We wouldn’t wish to wipe them out because we need sparing partners for our young men.”

Someone remarked that the enemies numbers were substantial. The Spartan commander said, “Then we will win greater fame since we will inflict higher casualties.”

Sometime after Thermopylae, the Spartan kings began to utilize an imperial guard of three hundred. Selection gave great prestige to the Spartan warrior and all Spartiates competed for a place in the unit. One soldier, upon hearing of his rejection, got a bright smile on his face. The commander asked why he was so cheerful and the man said, “I am happy knowing there are 300 citizens better than I.”

And a couple from Leonidas at Thermopylae.

Someone remarked, “The Persians are close to us.” Leonidas said, “Then we are also close to them.”

Someone asked him, “Leonidas, why are you here taking such a risk with so few men against so many?” The king replied, “If you think I should rely on numbers, then not even the whole of Greece is enough, since this is only a fraction of the Persian horde: but if I am to rely on courage, then this number is quite adequate.”

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