Sparta is famed for it’s powerful warriors, and brutal way of life. Spartan warriors were some of the finest of their time, unlike most civilisations spartans would devote themselves entirely to warfare. Spartan warriors went through some the harshest training in history, in order to become the greatest warriors possible. 50% of spartan babies were abandoned because of physical imperfections. Sparta tore down it’s walls because sparten men were so tough a wall was completely unnecessary.
Brutal Training Begins At Age 7
From the age of 7 soon to be Spartan warriors were forced into savage military training. This is known as the agoge. Children were taken from their families to live in the barracks for the next 6 years. Children were subject to beating, and were encouraged to bully and fight each other in order to toughen up. They were taught scholastics, warfare, hunting stealth, athletics, writing, and dancing. Anyone who showed signs of weakness would be shamed and bullied by other children, and by the teachers. Teachers would use whips to beat them, and the child’s parent also had an obligation to give their child a second beating.
Spartans would sometimes put on a strange festival, where cheese would be placed on an alter, and starving students would be forced to fight each other over the cheese. They would have to attempt to take as much cheese as they possibly could while fighting off the other competitors. While this was happening, older men would whip them, sometimes causing major injuries or even death. The students were not allowed to grimace or show pain, and instead had to smile throughout the whole process. The festival would serve as entertainment for the people not taking part, who would stand back and enjoy the spectacle.
Training Gets Even More Brutal At Age 12
Once Spartans reached the age of 12 they started a training routine so brutal it made their previous lives seems cushy and spoiled. Their shoes were discarded, because bare foot marching toughened the legs. Their clothes were taken away, and they were left with nothing but a light cloak, which would have made winter almost unbearable. They slept outside, and made their beds from reeds. They weren’t given food, and instead had to scavenge, and were even encouraged to steal their food without getting caught. Getting caught trying to steal would result in a beating. All Spartan men went through training and were expected to become soldiers, they would retire at the age of 60 if they were unfortunate enough to live that long.
Spartan warriors never surrendered in battle making them a nightmare for their opponents. Spartan warriors who didn’t adhere to this were relentlessly shamed by Spartan society, and it was often so brutal that it ended in suicide. Aristodemus was supposed to fight at Thermopylae, but caught an illness of the eye and was ordered to go home instead. Another man was also ordered to go home, but on his way home he actually turned back and died fighting. Because Aristodemus didn’t turn back he was relentlessly shamed at home. At the battle of Plataea Aristodemus charge suicidally into the enemy ranks killing significant numbers before finally being killed. This redeemed him in the eyes of the other Spartans.
Strangely after getting married Spartans were not allowed to live with their wives until they were at least 30 years old. Because of this many Spartans chose to marry at the age of 30, but any who married before then had to live separately. This is mainly because Spartans lived in the barracks until they were 30 years old. Marriage wasn’t about love or happiness in Sparta it was primarily a way of conceiving new citizens to fight for Sparta. Spartans would consider the health and fitness of their future wife’s over attractiveness, or personality. You didn’t have much of a choice over being a parent in Sparta, bachelors were mocked and humiliated, and men who couldn’t bear children were forced to find a suitable substitute.
Spartan food was really bad. The main thing they ate was black soup or black broth. It was made from pigs legs, blood, salt, and vinegar. It was purely made for sustenance and was actually the meal Spartans favoured, which tells you everything you need to know about their other meals. A man once came from Sybaris, which was famous for it’s food and gluttony. He sat down with the Spartans and tasted their black broth, and said “Now I know why the Spartans do not fear death.” Another legend also says that the tyrant of Syracuse once captured a Spartan cook and ordered him to make the broth. He then spat it out upon tasting it. The cook remarked, “Your Majesty, it is necessary to have exercised in the Spartan manner, and to have bathed in the Eurotas, in order to relish this broth.”
Spartans were purposefully not fed enough this toughened them up, and helped prepare them for war. It was also believed to make Spartans grow tall and slim. At the age of 21 Spartans were elected to a military style mess where they would “enjoy” public meals. Food was either flavourless or disgusting. Spartans were rarely overweight following this diet, but anyone who managed to put on too much weight was shamed, and sometimes banned from the city. Spartans were devoted to physical fitness, and falling behind everyone else would be considered shameful. Spartan warriors would never get drunk. Sometimes they would even force their slaves to get really drunk in order to show young Spartans it’s negative effects.
The Crypteia was a sort of secret service or secret police. It was used to terrorise the Helot (slaves), and put them in their place. Spartans who did exceptionally well, and may be future leaders were given the opportunity to participate in the Cryprteia. Every autumn Sparta would declare war on the helots, and any Spartan citizen was allowed to kill a Helot. Members of the Crypteia would be released at night with a knife with the mission of killing any Helots they found. They would seek out the strongest Helots and kill them first in order to prove themselves, and lower the threat of rebellion.
No Other Forms Of Education
All forms of education were banned other than what they were taught at school. Learning anything else was considered too luxurious, and even dangerous. Spartans never learnt about philosophy, and didn’t have much training in maths or literacy. Spartan men were soldiers and nothing more. Unlike most civilisation where soldiers often had other jobs. It was believed that to be the best soldier possible they had to concentrate on nothing else. If there mind was concerned with philosophy then they wouldn’t be able to perform optimally, and they may even decide to pursue a different path in life.
Contest of Endurance
The Contest of Endurance was one of the most brutal rituals in Spartan history, something any sane person would dread. Yet it was something Spartans volunteered for willingly, and actually looked forward to. The contest involved flogging adolescents until they could no longer stand the beating, and often died. It was an opportunity for boys to prove their endurance and bravery. The boys would try to be flogged for longer than everyone else to prove themselves. Originally it also served as a religious ritual, but eventually became an attraction as tourists would buy tickets to watch.