Sparta – I

Translated from EVROPA SOBERANA

Happy those remote times when a people said:
“I want to be the master of other people!”
—Nietzsche


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Introduction

Sparta was the first massive reaction against the inevitable decline brought about by the comfort of civilization, and as such, there is much to learn from it in this age of biological degradation and a moral induced by a techno-industrial society. The Spartans really broke away from all vices produced by civilization, and so placed themselves at the top of the pyramid of power in their region. All current elite military traditions are somewhat heirs of what took place in Sparta, and this signals the survival of the Spartan mission.

In this book we have gathered data from various sources, giving priority to the classics. The historian and priest of the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi, Plutarch (46-125 CE), in his work Ancient Customs of the Spartans and Life of Lycurgus gives us valuable information about Spartan life and Spartan laws, and much of what we know about Sparta we owe to him. Xenophon (430-334 BCE), historian and philosopher who sent his children to be educated in Sparta, is another good source of information, in its Constitution of the Lacedaemonians. Plato (427-347 BCE), in his famous Republic shows us the concept of how a higher state should be ruled, listing many measures that seem directly taken from Sparta, because it was his inspiration.

Today our indoctrinating academics vaguely teach that Sparta was a militaristic and brutal state completely turned to power, whose system of education and training was very hard. We are introduced to the Spartans roughly as efficient soldiers, crude and mindless, which “were only interested in war.” This is a deliberately distorted reflection of what they really were, and it is mainly because we have been taught by some decadent Athenians, spiced with the bad faith of those who currently manage the information, who seek to distort history to serve economic and other types of interests.

The Spartans left an indelible spiritual mark. The simple fact that even today the adjective “Spartan” designates qualities of hardness, severity, roughness, strength, stoicism and discipline, and that there are words that describe the attraction toward Sparta (laconophilia, philodorism), gives us an idea of the enormous role played by Sparta. It was much more than just a State: it was an archetype, the maximum exponent of the warrior doctrine. After the perfect façade brave men and athletic women hid the most religious, disciplined and ascetic of all people of Greece, who cultivated wisdom in a discrete and laconic way, far from the hustle and urban vulgarity which even then had appeared.

It is impossible to finish this introduction without reference to the movie 300, even though most of the text was written well before the film came out in 2007. As you will be reading, you will see that the lifestyle of the historical Spartans had nothing to do with the characters that this film presents, which tries to make the Spartans more digestible to us, introducing them in a more Americanized, sympathetic way to modern minds, which is not too bad because otherwise the message may not have passed through. On a higher level, Sparta provides the perfect excuse to approach important issues.

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 6:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sparta – II

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Origins of Sparta

Before the great Indo-European invasions, Europe was populated by various pre-Indo-European peoples, some of whom had advanced societies, which we are inclined to consider as related to other civilizations and societies outside Europe.

At first, most of Greece was inhabited by Mediterranean peoples that later Hellenes invaders would call Pelasgians. Around 2700 BCE, the Minoan civilization flourished (named in memory of the legendary King Minos), based on the Mediterranean island of Crete, very influenced by Babylon and the Chaldeans, clearly related to the Etruscans and even with Egypt, and known for her telluric “bull worship,” the palace of Knossos, buildings stripped of fortifications and abundant art spirals, curves, snakes, women and fish, all of which places this civilization within the orbit of the cultures of telluric character, focused on Mother Earth or Magna Mater.

According to Greek mythology, as the first peripheral Hellenes were advancing in Greece and coming into contact with its people, the Minoans ended up demanding, as an annual tribute fourteen young, male Hellenes to be ritually slaughtered (the legend of Theseus, Ariadne, the labyrinth and the minotaur is reminiscent of this era).

By 2000 BCE there was an invasion by the first Hellenic wave that opened what in archeology is called the Bronze Age. The Hellenes were an Indo-European mass that, in successive waves quite separated in time, invaded Greece from the north. They were tough people; more united, martial and vigorous than the Pelasgians, and ended up submitting those lands despite being numerically inferior to the native population. These Hellenes were the famous Achaean Greeks referred by Homer and the Egyptian inscriptions. They brought their gods, solar symbols (including the swastika, later used by Sparta), the chariots, the taste for the amber, fortified settlements, Indo-European language (Greek, who would end up imposing itself on the indigenous population), Nordic blood, patriarchy and hunter-warrior traditions.

The Achaeans settled in Greece, establishing themselves as the dominant caste, without at first reaching Crete. The first destruction of the Minoan palaces (around 1700 BCE) was probably due to a large earthquake of which there is evidence; not Achaean invasion.

The Achaeans, finally, opened the way for the Mycenaean civilization, centered on the city of Mycenae, Argolis. In 1400 BCE, the Achaeans took by force the island of Crete, destroying the palaces and finally ending, to some extent, the Minoan civilization; eventually adopting some of its outward forms—what many uprooted invaders who trample a superior, but already declining civilization, do. These Achaeans were the ones who, around 1260 BCE, besieged and razed Troy in a crusade of the West-East capable to unite all the Achaeans—generally prone to war between themselves—in a common enterprise. In the Iliad Homer describes them as a band of barbarians with mentality and appearance of Vikings sweeping the refined and civilized Troy. After this process, the entire western coast of Asia Minor, the Black Sea and the Bosphorus was subject to Greek influence: a process that will have a huge weight upon history.

Around 1200 BCE there was, again, a huge migration flow. Countless Indo-European peoples moved to the South in great tumult and to the East. The entire eastern Mediterranean suffered major seizures under the so-called “Sea Peoples” and other Indo-European tribes that invaded Turkey, Palestine, Egypt and the steppes of Eastern Europe, and opened the archaeological Iron Age in the Eastern Mediterranean.

As for the Mycenaean civilization of the Achaeans, it was also destroyed by one of these invasions. The apocalyptic references in the traditional Greek history (fire, destruction, death) made many historians mistakenly think in large earthquakes or riots. In this legendary invasion, much larger than the previous, iron weapons were used, superior than the bronze weapons of the Achaeans. The Dorians, belonging to such migration and ancestors of the Spartans, broke into Greece with extreme violence, destroying in their path cities, palaces and villages. The Dorians took Crete and the Mycenaean civilization of the Achaeans abruptly disappeared from the archaeological record. Argolis (on Mycenae ground) never forgot this, and although now with Dorian blood the state of Argos and its domains would stubbornly oppose the Spartan power in later centuries.

The former settlement of the Dorians had been in the Balkans and in Macedonia, where they lived in a barbarous or semi-barbarous state. They had not always lived in the area but ended up there as a result of another migration from further north. The most sensible thesis considers the place of origin of the Dorians along with the Celts, Italics, Illyrians and the remaining Greeks, the so-called Tumulus Culture and the latter Urnfield Cultures and Halstatt Culture: proto-Indo-European civilizations, tribal and semi-barbarous that flourished in Central Europe north of the Alps and southern Scandinavia. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, the Dorians had their primordial home “among the snows.” Genetically, Dorians seem to belong to R1b paternal lineage, that dominates Western Europe today.

Across Europe, after the invasions there was a contest (open first and then more subtle) between the martial mentality of the new invaders from the North and the native mentality of concupiscence. The East, Finland, Italy, the Iberian Peninsula and Greece were examples of this struggle, and usually the result was always the same: the Indo-European invaders prevailed despite their overwhelming numerical inferiority. Then they settled as nobility over a mob descendant of aboriginals and subjected peoples. In the Peloponnesus, this latent struggle resulted in the superhuman fruit of Sparta, just as, later, the struggle between Italic and Etruscan led to Rome.

Every era and every place has its own master race. At that time and place the Dorians were the dominant race. Of Nordic appearance, a soul of ice and fire, an inborn discipline and a brutal warrior vocation so natural to them distinguished them from the more peaceful natives, fully dedicated to the pleasures of the lower abdomen. The Dorians in particular (and among them specifically the Spartans, who kept themselves strictly separated from the rest of the people) maintained their original features longer than the other Hellenes: centuries after the Dorian invasion blond hair and tall stature were still considered the characteristic of the Spartan. This is because, as in India, the great epic of ancient invasion remained for a long time in the collective memory of the people; and the racism of the Dorians, along with their insistence on remaining a selected elite, led to a system of racial separation which preserved for centuries the characteristics of the original invaders.

The name of the Dorians comes from Dorus, son of the legendary Helen (Helen of Troy was before Helen of Sparta). The aristocrats were called Heracleidae, as claimed descent also from Heracles, thus attributing divine ancestry. Divided into three tribes, the Dorians were led by the royal lineage, as well as oracles and Hellenic priests equivalent to the Celtic Druids. For the Heracleidae, the invasion of Greece was a divine command nominally from Apollo “the Hyperborean,” their favorite god.

During the four centuries, from 1200 BCE to 800 BCE, there was a stage that modern historiography called “Greek Middle Ages,” when the Dorians erected themselves as the native aristocracy and formed small “feudal” kingdoms constantly fighting against each other, as the uprooted invaders from all eras liked to do. This stage was a heroic, individualistic age of personal glory, in which the warriors sought a glorious sunset. Many battles still were decided by a duel of champions: the greatest warrior of one side faced the best of the other. This represents the heroic but foolish mentality of the time: “the strong destroy each other and the weak continue to live.”

By that time Greece had not yet reached the image of the refined warrior equivalent to the medieval knight: the Dorians were still barbarians. For better or worse, all great civilizations began with hordes of warriors and hunters, tightly bound by ties of clan, and strongly disciplined by a militarized lifestyle. Nietzsche already noted the importance of the “barbarian” character in the formation of all aristocracy. For him, even when such invaders are established and form states, the basic underlying character is still, and subtly, barbaric in the forms of these raising states.

During the Greek Middle Ages, in 1104 BCE, the Heracleidae reached the Peloponnesus. Spartan history explained quite correctly that the Dorians invaded Greece eighty years after the destruction of Troy and, led by King Aristodemus, conquered the peninsula. Pausanias (second century, not to be confused with the Spartan prince who defeated the Persians at the battle of Plataea), in his Description of Greece, goes into more detail. He says that the Dorians, from a mountainous region of northern Greece called Oeta and guided by Hilo, a “son of Heracles” expelled from the Peloponnesus the Mycenaean Achaeans.

However, an Achaean counteroffensive held them back. Then, in a final process called Return of the Heracleidae, the Dorians definitely settled in the Peloponnesus and prevailed over the Achaeans, with great disturbances in the peninsula. The phrase-dogma of the “Return of the Heracleidae” was the way the Dorians had to justify the invasion of the Peloponnesus: noble Dorian families, distantly related to the Achaean noble families (both Dorians and Achaeans were Greeks), claimed what “rightfully” was theirs.

The new stream of Indo-European blood, courtesy of the Dorians, would eventually revitalize the ancient Hellas, keeping it in the spiritual and physical forefront of the time along with Persia, India, an Egypt that was not by then what it used to be, and China. In the south of the Peloponnesus peninsula, the Dorians established their main center, the city of Sparta, also known by its former name, Lacedaemon. The territory under the dominion of Sparta was known as Laconia.

The original city of Sparta or Lacedaemon was not properly a city; it consisted of a “cluster” of five villages (Pitan, Cynosur, Meso, Limnas and Amiclas, initially military garrisons) different but close and united, each with its high priest. The settlements always lacked defensive walls, proudly confident in the discipline and ferocity of their warriors. Antalcidas went on to say that “the young men are the walls of Sparta, and the points of their spears its boundaries.” The lack of walls helped them to stay alert and not allow in any relaxing. Hitler would say, with an identical mentality: “A too great feeling of security provokes, in the long run, a relaxation of forces. I think the best wall will always be a wall of human chests!”

Sparta, however, was surrounded by natural defenses, as it was situated in the valley of the river Eurotas, between high mountains, with the Taygetos mountain range to the west and Parnon at the east. However, the lack of walls demonstrates the safety and confidence of the Spartans as well as certain arrogance.

In ancient Hellas three Indo-European streams would end up as the main ones: Firstly the rough Dorians, who spoke a Greek dialect that used the a and r. On the other hand, the soft Ionians, who came from a Greek invasion before the Dorians, dressed in flowing robes, oriental style, and spoke a kinder Greek dialect to the ear, which employed much i and the s. Other peoples of Greece were called Aeolians, who spoke a dialect that seemed a mix of Dorian and Ionian, and came from the ancient, mixed Achaean and to some extent from the Pelasgians and later with the invading Dorians and Ionians—thus sometimes also called, erroneously, Achaeans.

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 6:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sparta – III

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First development of Sparta: the Messenian wars

During the eighth century BCE, Sparta, like other peoples of Hellas, was a small city-state ruled by a monarchy and aristocratic oligarchy of Doric descent. Driven by population growth and a need for resources and power, the Spartans looked to the West and decided that beyond the mountains Taygetus, in Messenia would create a nation of slaves to serve them.

The geopolitics of Laconia did not leave them much choice: they were on a rough terrain and isolated by mountains and a non-navigable river. Laconia was something like the heartland, or cardial region of the Peloponnesus: an area inaccessible to any power that used the sea as a vector to project their power. So it was well protected from abroad, but in return the Laconians could not afford to sea as the coast was steep and there was only one suitable site to establish a port at Gythium, 43 km from the capital (unlike Piraeus, which was very close to Athens). Therefore, they could not follow the example of the Athenians, who jumped from island to island, colonizing the coasts and drawing large amounts of wheat from the north shore of the Black Sea.

On the other hand, the neighboring kingdom of Messenia had the most fertile plains of Hellas (“good for planting, good for plowing” said Tyrtaeus; “a happy grassland” the Spartans called it). By annexing it they would achieve autarkic supply of food and no longer need to rely on remote territories, trade, merchants, strategic islands, and maritime straits easy to control by the enemy or naval fleet.

Moreover, they would not cosmopolitanize, as usual with all trading nations. Sparta, then, was shaping up as a telurocracy—a geopolitical power of clearly continental type—opposed to the maritime Athenian thalassocracy.

Around 743 BCE, at a time when the Messenians were feasting and offering sacrifices to their gods, Sparta sent three lads dressed as maids. These little soldiers, well trained, carried short swords under their robes, and had no trouble infiltrating the carefree party atmosphere in Messenian territory. From inside they stalked the unarmed Messenia crowd, and at a given signal they began a bloody carnage in the thick of the crowd, before the Messenia mass subdued the boys. After the incident the Messenians grouped and, enraged, armed themselves and marched into Laconia. In the fight that broke out, one of the kings of Sparta fell, and the First Messenia War began (described by Tyrtaeus and Pausanias, who in turn relied on Myron of Priene).

After four years of war and a great battle, neither side emerged victorious. That was a deaf resistance, guerrilla style, and probably conventional armies had been relatively disrupted after the first battle. Although not adopting yet the tactics of the phalanx or Hoplite equipment, the most decisive actions were hand strikes, raids and sieges. However, the Messenians had suffered so many losses that a Messenian warlord, Aristodemus and his men, retreated to a fortress on Mount Ithome, and visited the oracle for advice. The oracle answered that to resist the Spartans a maiden of an ancient and respectable Messenian family should be sacrificed to the gods. Aristodemus, who was to be a great patriot, did not hesitate to sacrifice his own daughter. When the Spartans heard this, they rushed to make peace with the Messenians as, superstitious or not, they attached great importance to such ritual matters.

After some years, however, the Spartans decided to attack the Messenians again. There was another great battle, but the victory yet again did not go for any of the two sides. And since the Messenian king had fallen, the leader Aristodemus went to reign over the Messenians. In the fifth year of his reign he was able to expel from his territory the Spartan forces. However, Aristodemus seemed to be under a dark curse. In a Messenian temple a shield fell from the hand of the statue of the goddess Artemis. The sacrificed daughter of Aristodemus appeared as ethereal figure and asked him to take off his armor.

Artemis did it, and she crowned him with a golden crown, dressed in a white robe. According to the mentality of the time, all these omens meant that the death of Aristodemus was coming. Ancient peoples took these things very seriously. It was not superstition but the unraveling of the archetypal signs, repeated on Earth and echoing what was happening in the sky. Accordingly, black premonitions gravitated around Aristodemus. A dense depression took over his mind. He began to think that he and his nation were condemned to slavery. Believing he had sacrificed his daughter in vain, he committed suicide over her grave. The Greeks said that “one whom the gods wish to destroy they first make him crazy.”

The war lasted a total of nineteen years, and it was only after this time that the Spartans could exterminate Messenian resistance and raze the fortress of Ithome. Some Messenians fled the Peloponnesian, and those who remained were treated more harshly than the very Helots of Laconia. They were relegated to be peasant vassals of Sparta at the Messenia fertile plain, and also forced them to pay half of the production of their land to their Spartan masters.

But the Messenians, much more numerous than the Spartans, were not satisfied with this situation of second-class and submitted people. Two generations after the First Messenian War a bold leader named Aristomenes, supported by the states of Argos and Arcadia, preached rebellion against Sparta. Following this, in the seventh century BCE the Second Messenian War began. With a band of loyal followers, Aristomenes starred numerous raids on Spartan territory, even weeping out two populations.

Three times he celebrated a Hecatomb sacrifice, a ritual only allowed to perform to those who had killed more than a hundred enemies. The Messenians, for the first time, used the Hoplite phalanx tactics characterized by close order formations, barricading behind a shield wall from which the spears stabbed with impunity. The Spartans had not yet adopted this form of combat from the Middle East, and suffered catastrophic casualties in the Battle of Hysiae.

Sparta then consulted the oracle of Delphi. There they were told to go to Athens to procure a leader. This was not supposed to please the Spartans, as their relations with Athens were not good, and neither pleased the Athenians for the same reason, but both States respected the decisions of Delphi and did not object. The Athenians, however, acted in bad faith: they sent a lame teacher called Tyrtaeus (known to posterity as Tyrtaeus of Sparta), thinking that he would not have value as military captain.

However, Tyrtaeus was a great poet. His chants of war inflamed the martial ardor of the Spartans and raised their morale. In the next battle against the Messenians, the Spartans marched already inflamed and in phalanx combat, singing his songs. With such impulse they defeated Aristomenes in the Battle of the Great Pit, forcing the Messenians to retreat to another mountain fortress called Ira, at whose feet the Spartan camp was established. This state of siege, in which guerrillas returned stronger than during the first war, lasted eleven years. Aristomenes often managed to break the Spartan siege in Ira and head toward Laconia, subjected to pillage. Twice he was captured by the Spartans and twice escaped.

The third time was captured along with fifty of his men, and they were paraded victoriously through Sparta as if they were a Roman triumph. Then they were taken to the foot of Mount Taygetos and thrown off a cliff, the famous Kaiada. According to Greek history, only Aristomenes miraculously survived the fall and was able to leave the abyss following a fox. Soon, he was in the fortress of Ira in front of his men.

But the Spartans ended infiltrating a spy into the fortress, and one night, after Aristomenes returned from one of his raids, the fort was betrayed. In the fierce battle that followed it is said Aristomenes was wounded and, clasping his bravest men, broke the Spartan lines and fled to Rome, where he died soon after. It is more than likely that this myth was built to revitalize Messenian pride: even 250 years later it was said that Aristomenes was seen in a battlefield fighting against the Spartans.

The Spartans conquered by spear and sword enough land to support all their people and maintain the other peoples subjected. They subjugated the Messenians, beat hostile crowds far more numerous than themselves and indisputably subjected them to their rule. Messenian coastal populations became a sort of middle-class commercial and navy populations, and the rest of the country, mere Helots (peasant rabble). Encompassing the entire southern half of the Peloponnesus, including the original territory of Laconia and the conquered land of Messenia, Sparta became the largest state in all Hellas by far—three times larger than the Attic state of Athens.

AgriculturalValleySpartaTransUnlike other Hellenic states, Sparta had chosen to be a continental land power of compact territory instead of engaging in seafaring and colonizing areas outside Greece, as other Hellenic states did in Asia Minor, Italy, the Black Sea or Africa. At least in part this was due to its immense agricultural potential: Messenia was the most fertile of the Greek world by far, while Athens suffered chronic lack of grain and continuously had to go to the Black Sea coast to look for it. Sparta had no such problems.

Think for a moment about how these battles, terribly fierce and long, could have influenced the Spartan character. The Messenian Wars marked forever their mentality. Ultimately, the teachers of the Spartans were their own enemies and the wars forced upon them. They were the ones who instituted in Sparta military paranoia and preparation for combat that characterized it; who forced Spartan aristocracy enter into crisis and, by necessity, find the best way to prevail over their enemies. Sparta would never have been what it became if in combat it had hit a cowardly people. Holding a long struggle against high-quality elements, bold and fearsome enemies to boast, aroused the Spartan force. Perhaps that is the only advantage of the unfortunate fratricidal wars, so typical of Europe.

 

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 6:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sparta – IV

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Lycurgus and the Revolution

As said, between 1200 and 800 BCE, there were 400 years of “dark age” or Greek Middle Ages. The men were acting on personal glory; their behavior was inspired by the legendary feats of ancient individualist heroes. Blood brothers senselessly killed each other instead of uniting in a common will and not seeking personal glory but the glory of their people. Sparta herself was immersed in this heroic but fratricidal system, where every man was walking his way seeking his own immortality. Noble Dorians killed each other while their real enemies proliferated. Sparta was but a realm of many that existed in Hellas, and also pretty tumultuous and chaotic. But at the end of the dark ages came a figure that heralded a new era: Lycurgus, the father of Sparta, the spokesman of Dorian blood: the man who made what Sparta would later become.

After quelling the second Messenian rebellion with great difficulty, the Spartans found themselves contemplating the disturbing picture of being on the brink of defeat; very vulnerable, and on the reins of a resentful and hostile foreign population that surpassed them in quantity of more than ten to one. And they were not easy slaves to subjugate, but Greek peoples who retained their identity, pride and will to power. All Spartans knew full well that the subjugated would rebel again one day sooner or later and that they must be prepared for the occasion. In this tense atmosphere, if Sparta could preserve its purity and survive it was thanks to Lycurgus.

It is not known when Lycurgus lived. Some say he belongs to the ninth century BCE, that is, before the Messenian wars, others to the eighth century, and others to the seventh. In any case, his extraordinary personality is of an ancestral legislator or “giver of tables.” Lycurgus is half historical and half legendary. His name means “conductor of wolves.” He was a veteran of the Messenian wars and the Heracleidae, and belonged to the royal line of the Agis, youngest son of King Eunomos, who had softened his regime to please the crowds. But these crowds were emboldened and the king fell stabbed with a butcher knife. Polydectes inherited the kingdom, his eldest son, but, having died suddenly, Lycurgus, his younger brother, succeeded to the throne. His reign lasted eight months but it was so right, fair and orderly compared to the previous anarchy that won the respect of his people forever. When Lycurgus knew that his sister-in-law (the former queen) was pregnant of his brother and late King, he announced that the fruit of such pregnancy would inherit the throne, the right thing, and therefore Lycurgus would become merely regent.

But the queen was an ambitious woman who wanted to continue enthroned, so she proposed Lycurgus to marry her and get rid of the baby as soon as he was born, so they could become king and queen for life, and after them his own descendants. Lycurgus was furious at the proposal and rejected it vehemently. However, as a negative response would have meant that the party of the queen rise up in arms, he falsely sent messengers to accept the proposition. But when the baby was born, he sent servants with orders that if the child was a girl to be delivered to the mother; if boy to be handed over to him.

A male baby was born and was delivered as ordered. During a night he dined with military Spartans leaders and Lycurgus ordered the child to be brought, with the idea to let the leaders know there was already an heir. Lifting him with his arms and set him on the Spartan throne, said “Men of Sparta, here is a king born to us!” And since the heir still had no name, he named him Charilaus, “joy of the people.” With this gesture, Lycurgus affirmed his loyalty to the heir and future king and made it clear that he should be protected, and that he became his guardian and protector until he was old enough to rule.

Meanwhile, Lycurgus as Regent was highly revered by the people, who admired his uprightness, honesty and wisdom. The queen mother, however, had not forgiven his refusal and that he kidnapped and made Charilaus known. Due to manipulation and intrigues, she spread the rumor that Lycurgus was conspiring to murder his nephew and become king of Sparta. When this rumor reached the ears of Lycurgus, he went into exile until Charilaus was old enough to reign, marriage and become heir to the Spartan throne. In his exile Lycurgus traveled through different kingdoms studying their laws and customs in order to improve the Spartan after his return. The first country he visited was the island of Crete, the Dorian settlement after Mycenae and of renowned wisdom, where he befriended the wise Tales, convincing him to go to Sparta to help him in his purpose.

Tales appeared in Sparta as a musician-poet, a kind of minstrel, throwing songs of honor and discipline to the people of Sparta, and preparing them for what was to come. The greedy and ambitious willfully abandoned their desire for wealth and material luxuries in the sake of unity in a common will with their race. Lycurgus also visited Ionia, where he not only studied Homer, but legend says that he knew him personally (here it is clear that certain dates do not add up). Lycurgus compiled his work and then made it known to his people, who liked it very much initiating the Spartan celebration of Homer. Another legendary feat attributed to Lycurgus was the founding of the Olympics.

Lycurgus also traveled to Egypt, where he spent time studying the Army training. He was fascinated by the fact that in Egypt the soldiers were lifelong soldiers, as in other nations warriors were called to arms in war and returned to their previous work in peacetime. Although this certainly was not the only purpose of his trip to Egypt, at the time it was a place visited by all those who sought initiation of ancient wisdom.

The Spartan Aristocrates says that Lycurgus also traveled to Iberia, Libya and India, where he met the famous wise gymnosophists, with whom Alexander would also meet centuries later. The gymnosophist school valued, among other things, nudity to the inclemency of weather as a method to tan the skin and make the body and spirit resistant in general. As we will see later, this idea was greatly appreciated in Spartan education.

While Lycurgus was out, Sparta declined. The laws were not obeyed and there was no executive power to punish offenders. Upright men longed the time of the regency of Lycurgus and begged him: “It is true we have kings bearing the marks and assume the titles of royalty, but as for the qualities of their minds, nothing distinguishes them from their subjects. Only you have a nature made to rule and a genius to gain obedience.”

Lycurgus returned to Sparta and his first action was to bring together thirty of the greatest military leaders to inform them of his plans. After these men swore loyalty he ordered to join, armed, in the market square at dawn with their followers to instill terror in the hearts of those who would reject the changes he planned. He compiled a blacklist of potential enemies to hunt them down and eliminate if needed. That day the square was packed with fanatical followers of Lycurgus, and the effect was so impressive that the king fled to the temple of Athena, fearing a conspiracy against him. But Lycurgus sent a messenger to inform him that all he wanted was to introduce new legislation to improve and strengthen Sparta. Thus reassured, the king left the temple and headed to the square, and joined the party of Lycurgus. With Lycurgus, the two kings and thirty military leaders, the party had thirty-three members.

But even with the support of the king, what Lycurgus had made was clearly a coup, a conquest of power or imposition of his will: a revolution. He had united his people, instilling a sense of cohesion that should characterize any grand alliance. The individual is nothing and the species everything. Or as Hitler would say to his followers: “You are nothing, your Volk is everything.”

After developing his laws and make kings sworn they would respect them, Lycurgus reported that he would travel to the shrine of Delphi (the most important religious center of Hellas, considered “navel of the world”) in search of counsel from Apollo, to ratify their decision. Near Delphi, marginal nucleus of Dorian population in the slopes of Mount Parnassus, he saw a shrine to this god with a legend that in that spot Apollo had killed the serpent Python (a telluric idol related to pre-Indo-European peoples). A whole school was there for all initiatory mysteries of Delphi. These mysteries were a venerable institution, Dorian to the core, to which the notables of all Hellas looked for advice, initiation, and wisdom. It was a highly strategic location: from the sea, the sanctuary dominates the heights and seems to lie above the navigator, and from Delphi, everything that comes and leaves the Gulf of Corinth is seen clearly.

The sanctuary was saying, “Here we are the Greeks, dominating the naval and the trade traffic it brings, and we are vigilant.” In the temple of Apollo was a Sibyl, a virgin priestess who believed he had a special bond with this god and, like him, gifts of clairvoyance that were able to see the future and make prophecies. After receiving Lycurgus the Sibyl called him “more god than man” and claimed he was a chosen of the gods, and announced that his laws were good and blessed his plans to establish the Spartan constitution, which would make the kingdom of Sparta the most famous of the world.

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This modern reconstruction recreates how the sanctuary of Delphi must have looked in ancient times. The road is strewn of stony plates that the Greek city-states donated to the oracle. The plates are adorned with elaborate writings and long dedications, except the Spartan plate, which reads: “To the oracle of Delphi, from Sparta.”

With the blessing of the priestess, Lycurgus established the Spartan constitution and his laws were so harsh and severe that he prohibited writing them down: only as oral tradition so that, over years of training, each individual assimilated them in his soul, by practice and internalization: something which would make him a carrier of such laws wherever he went and in any situation. His intention was not to create a mechanical, grid, stiff and cold system, but a living wheel: flexible and adaptable not only as common sense and logic, but also as an ancestral intuition and instinct.

By then Sparta was surrounded by hostile neighbors difficult to repel and possessed some nine thousand, non-militarized men to act in case of war or crisis. Lycurgus foresaw that if each of them was to be selected and trained hard in the arts of war since childhood, they would achieve victory over their opponents in spite of being outnumbered. Over generations, the people of Sparta would harden so much that would not be afraid of their enemies, and their fame would spread to the four cardinal points. Since then, Spartan boys became more than warriors: natural-born fighters with a lifelong mission, entirely committed in body and a soul sacrificed in honor of their homeland. They became, then, soldiers; perhaps the first professional soldiers in Europe.

Lycurgus did not exactly intend establishing a kind of democracy. On one occasion a man had before him a compliment of democracy, giving a fiery speech. Lycurgus, having heard all the talk in silence, replied: “Good, now go and set an example by establishing a democracy at home.” Keep in mind that even in those ancient “democracies” only Greek citizens voted, i.e. men of pure Hellenic blood who had reached the majority of age. They had nothing to do with our modern idea. Despite of this, there is no shortage of deceivers today who try to sell us that Sparta was a kind of communist system just because the state was omnipresent and the Spartans knew how to share among them.

Lycurgus’ revolution was not entirely peaceful. The Spartan people soon realized that the laws were extremely hard even for them. A considerable lineage of Dorian Greeks had become accustomed to the comfort and luxury that always come victorious when not maintained on guard. The sober, ascetic and martial socialism preached by Lycurgus, which required all young men to part from their families and eat with their comrades, was not well received among many, especially the rich and affluent. There was a wave of outrage and an angry mob gathered to protest against Lycurgus. The mob was composed especially by the former wealthy individuals who found degrading the military rule that prohibited eating except on a collectively table of comrades in arms. When Lycurgus appeared, the crowd began to stone him and he was forced to flee to avoid death by stoning. The angry mob chased him but Lycurgus—robust despite his age—was so fast that soon after only a young man named Alexander was at his heels.

When Lycurgus turned to see who was chasing him with such agility, Alexander struck him in the face with a stick, gouging out an eye. Lycurgus gave no sign of pain and just stood with his bloodied face to face his pursuer. When the rest of the crowd arrived they saw what the young man had done: a venerable old man, standing solemnly before them, bleeding with an empty eye. Those were very respectful times for the elderly, especially men as charismatic and noble as Lycurgus. Instantly they must have felt immense guilt. Embarrassed, the crowd accompanied Lycurgus to his home to show their apologies, and delivered Alexander to him to punish him as he saw fit. Lycurgus, now one-eyed, did not rebuke the young, but he invited Alexander to live with him as a student. The young man soon learned to admire and emulate the austere and pure way of life of his mentor. As tradition derived from that event, the Senators gave up the habit of attending state meetings with batons.

After the Spartan people swore the laws of Lycurgus, he decided to leave Sparta for the rest of his days. His mission was accomplished and he knew it; now he had to die giving an example of a strong will. Feeling nostalgic for his homeland and being unable to live away from her, he committed suicide by starvation. A man born for a particular purpose, once fulfilled that purpose he has no reason to linger earthbound. The ritual suicide has been practiced by many exceptional men whose mission was over, men who, after serving their fate, nothing was left in the world; they had lost the right to life. Nietzsche also spoke of voluntary death: “Many die too late, and some die too early. Yet strange soundeth the precept: “Die at the right time!”

Another version relates that before leaving Delphi, Lycurgus made the Spartan people swore to follow their laws at least until he returned from Delphi. And, having committed suicide without ever returning to Sparta, the Spartans were left with no choice but to always abide by the laws of Lycurgus.

For Sparta, Lycurgus was something of a precursor, a vanguard leader, a messenger before his time. He had royal power, and the sacred charisma of great leaders, kings, saints and emperors, “certain power that drew the wills” in the words of Plutarch. He came and transformed a chaotic and overflowing mass with great potential in the most effective army of Earth. He imprinted his world with a new inertia—his—, and gave a new aspect: what he wanted. After his death, a temple was erected in his honor and he was worshiped like a god. And it was from his time that not only Sparta but all Greece shone again: the beginnings of the Classic Age.

bas-relief_U.S._House_chamber

Xenophon greatly admired Lycurgus saying that he “reached the highest limit of wisdom” (Constitution of the Lacedaemonians, 1). Savitri Devi referred to him as “the divine Lycurgus” and recalled that “the laws of Lycurgus had been dictated by Apollo at Delphi” (The Hyperborean). Gobineau appreciated the salvation led by the legislation of Lycurgus: “The Spartans were few in number but big-hearted, greedy and violent: a bad legislation would have turned them into poor devils. Lycurgus transformed them into heroic bandits” (An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races, book I, chapter V).

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 6:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sparta – V

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The New Sparta

Forced to learn lessons after their very long wars with the Messenians, and illuminated by the laws of Lycurgus, the Spartans proceeded to build an army-camp nation. It was the knowledge of the power of subversion of the enemy and having been about to fall into their hands which made Sparta what later came to be. It was the paranoia of security, the distrust of the submitted peoples, what wrought Sparta over other Hellenic states and made them surrender to Lycurgus. As the Spartans were obsessed that their subjects, much more numerous, might rebel against their authority again, they chose to harden themselves and raise a new type of man under an authoritarian, totalitarian, militaristic, incorruptible and unquestionable power that they should obey blindly. Thereafter, the laws of Lycurgus acquired their greatest splendor. This was the period from which Sparta was unique in Hellas, the period in which “something changed,” the time when the people of Sparta, quietly and discreetly, suffered the strangest of transformations.

What was precisely this mutation? Among other things, the Spartans learned to direct their aggression not only against their enemies and rivals, but primarily against themselves and their peers in order to stimulate, purify and perfect themselves. In addition to tightening the practitioner, such behavior subtly loomed in the minds of the enemies the subconscious question, “If you do this to yourself, what will you do to your enemies?” Thus was born, then, military asceticism.

The Spartans were militarized. All the people went on organizational mood. Sparta became socialist and totalitarian—understood in its original sense of a civilization organized and disciplined by a gifted elite, formed with its best sons, and based on value-blood-spiritual-biological criteria. Such socialism is something that only could have taken place in the Iron Age, as it tried to bring together what was broken, and was more like an aristocracy than a democracy. Spengler described this type of militarist-imperialist-patriarchal system in his Prussianism and Socialism, noting how this system resurfaces again and again in history, incarnating in the larger towns and leading to empires. (Spengler distinguishes four superior socialisms: the Roman Empire, the Spanish Empire, the British Empire and Prussia, which resulted in the Second Reich. We would add two more socialisms: Sparta and the Third Reich.)

The caste organization in Sparta was tripartite: warriors, “bourgeois” and slaves.

(1) The Spartiates (Greek: Σπαρτιάται, “Spartans”). The upper class was that of the Astoi, Damos or citizens: the aristocracy, consisting of Dorian Spartans of pure lineage who owned kleros (a package of land) and that called themselves Spartiates or Homoioi (the same). To be “equal,” however, one had to be part of that jealous clan. That closed, selective and elitist Order was the aristocracy of Sparta, which itself was strongly hierarchical and required as a condition of membership being born within a pure-blooded Spartan family, passing through strict eugenics (from the Greek word meaning “good birth”) and having passed awful trials during instruction. Only Spartan men, brutally trained and militarized to the core, were able to bear arms; though forbidden to fight each other in any way that was not combat. They could not afford the honor duels where men necessary fall instead of defending their country.

Hoplites

The custom of calling themselves “equal” is rooted in the collective unconscious of Indo-Europeans, as the Romans called each other “peers” like the English aristocrats, a word of the same meaning. All this reveals a sanctification of what is one’s own and similar, as well as a disregard for the foreign. In this establishment, the elite all Hippeis aspired was an elite guard of 300 men under 30 years.

The Spartiates were the descendants of the old army of Dorian invaders and their families, that is, the warrior nobility of the ancient Dorians: maybe the best blood of Hellas. They formed, therefore, the actual Spartan warrior caste, where there also came all priests. The caste of citizens, including women and children, never had more than 20,000 members. They were ten times less than the helots.

(2) The Perioeci (or perioikoi) means peripheral, people around, neighbors. They formed the middle class, a kind of bourgeoisie. They lived in villages with local government, without autonomy in military and foreign policy, and engaged mainly in trading, blacksmithing and crafts, activities that were forbidden to the Spartans. The perioeci, then, were those who were in charge of the money and the “logistics.” They were probably descendants of the lower strata of the ancient Dorian population mixed with the Achaeans, who in turn had previously dominated the Pelasgians and were mixed to some extent with them. They also came from people who had not resisted Sparta during the process of defining the polis. All coastal cities had Messenian perioeci status. The perioeci were entitled to a small kleros, lower in quality than the plain plots of Messenia, and they often supervised the helots, acting as intermediaries or foremen between them and the Spartans. They also constituted the crew of the navy (both commercial and naval war). The intermediaries between the perioeci and the Spartans were the Harmosts, twenty Spartans who administered the perioeci. Through them came to Sparta the food, weapons and craft goods.

(3) The Helots: Also called heílotes (“captives”), were at the bottom of social stratification. Most were Messenians, Pelasgians and other pre-Indo-Europeans in Greece, or mixtures between them. Their condition was dedicated servants to work the fields in perpetuity, but allowed to have possessions, that is, private property. A fixed amount of their crops was destined for their Spartan master, and the rest for them.

The helots were legally tied to the land and were forbidden to leave the kleros they cultivated, although it was forbidden to expel them from it. As the status was not slavery, they could not be bought or sold. Thanks to these feudal measures Sparta never had to import large numbers of foreign slaves, as Athens ended up doing.

Helots mortally hated the arrogant Spartan nobility (Cinadon said they wanted to “eat them raw”), for which were often despised and humiliated. Only the unity, the savagery, the warlike character, and the organizational capacity and cruelty of the Spartan elite prevented them from being in continual rebellion. Because whenever a Spartiate ran into them they knew they were before a being who would have no difficulty in killing many with his own hands. This made the helot respect and fear the Spartiate, and Sparta was doing whatever necessary to cultivate this image. In Sparta, the castes knew each other: helots knew that the Spartans were superior and the Spartans knew the helots were their inferiors.

Helot numbers, according to the Greek historian Thucydides (460-395 BCE), ranged between 150,000 and 200,000. As markers of identity they should carry a shaved head, leather clothes and kyne: a dog-skin cap. Failing to comply to these outfits was punished with the penalty of death and a fine for the master of the helot.

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 6:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sparta – VI

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Eugenics and early childrearing

The Spartan upbringing exudes what Nietzsche called “master morality” referring to the superior man, as opposed to “slave morality” that, for example, Christianity uses. What the Spartans did was to maximize natural selection to obtain a race of perfect men and women. Today, the cult of perfection raises uproar among the champions of the politically correct, always happy to say that perfection is unattainable, thereby seeking to justify and excuse their own laziness and even avoid approaching the subject. But Lycurgus and his disciples had contemplated this ideal of perfection as a goal and to achieve it they renounced all scruple adopting a detached philosophy, “beyond good and evil” in the vernacular.

It can be said that the system of eugenics preceded even birth, because the young pregnant maid and future mother practiced special exercises designed to encourage that their future child was born healthy and strong, and that labor was easy. There is nothing more insane than the present day, when women who have not played sports in their lives are forced to give birth in traumatic ways without the necessary physical and mental preparation, like a soldier going to war without military training.

Once the baby was born, the mother bathed him in wine. According to the Spartan custom body contact with the wine made the epileptics, decrepit and sickly enter into convulsions and fainted, so that the weak died soon, or at least could be identified for disposal, but the strong were as hardened steel. This may seem a kind of baseless superstition, but Aristotle himself defended it and the French Enlightenment criticized as “irrational” the peasant custom of bathing newborns with water with wine: a sign that in the 18th century rural France the custom continued. We now know, for example, that a bath of alcohol hardens the feet, preparing them to support prolonged activity. We also know that red wine contains tannins, substances of plant origin that are used for tanning leather and other animal skins and make them tough and resistant to extreme temperatures and microbial invasions.

If the baby passed the test, he was taken by his father to the Lesjé (“porch”) and inspected by a council of wise elders to judge his health and strength, and to determine whether it would be able to withstand a Spartan life. All babies that were not healthy, beautiful and strong were taken to Apothetae (“place of rejection”) on the Eastern slope of Mount Taygetos (2407 meters high), from which were thrown into Kaiada (Spartan equivalent to the Roman Tarpeian Rock), a pit located 10 km northwest of Sparta. To this day, Kaiada is a place that has always been surrounded by sinister legends. Not only defective children were thrown into the depths, but also enemies of the state (cowards, traitors, Messenians rebels and suspects) and some prisoners of war. Recently numerous skeletons have been discovered buried there, including women and children.

At other times the defective were delivered to the helots to be raised as slaves, but maybe this should be read that sometimes a caring shepherd (or rather a pastor needed for labor) picked up a baby who had been abandoned to the elements to die, taking him home and rising him as a son.

Let us recall, moreover, that the ancient Germans abandoned defective babies in the woods to be devoured by wolves. In the SS, babies being born deformed, weak or sick were stifled at birth, and subsequently informed the parents that the child was stillborn. According to Plutarch, for the Spartans, “leaving alive a being that was not healthy and strong from the beginning did not benefit either the State or the individual himself.” Under this principle there were executed, in an act of true compassion, all babies who were not perfectly healthy. Along with eugenics this was aristogenesis (“best birth” or “birth of the best”).

What Nature usually has done in a slow and painful way the Spartans did so quickly and almost painlessly, saving unnecessary work and suffering. Rather than ignoring the laws of nature—as does the modern techno-industrial society by getting into the red with Nature and the future—, the Spartans rose Nature’s laws to the maximum exponent, and created a world where it was impossible to escape from them.

Most Hellenic States (like all Indo-European peoples of antiquity, as well as many non-Indo-European) followed similar eugenic-selection tactics in which it was assumed that the right to life was not for everyone, but that it must be earned proving oneself strong and healthy. This idea comes from the unconscious conviction that the people to which one belongs has internalized a pact with Nature. In the rest of Greece, eugenics was optional and the decision was up to the fathers, so that the babies were selected privately as a domestic policy. In Sparta, on the other hand, the selection was a fully institutionalized state policy. The Spartans saw in these measures a matter of life and death, and survival in terms of community of blood. They assumed these measures with conviction, because in the past the measures had helped them to overcome extremely adverse situations. Its aim was to ensure that only the fit survive and favor evolution, thus maintaining a high biological level for the country and, on this basis, make an improvement on all levels.

Babies who survived the selection were returned to their mothers and incorporated into a male or female brotherhood according to their sex—usually the same one to which belonged his father or mother. Little or nothing is known about these brotherhoods, maybe guilds where children were initiated into religious worship. After being accepted into this fraternity, they went to live with their mothers and nannies, growing up among women up to their seventh year.

During these seven years, the female influence would not soften the children, as these were women who could raise their offspring without softening them. Spartan mothers and nannies were an example of solid maternity: harsh young, severe, and virtuous women imbued with the profound importance and sacredness of their mission. They had been trained since birth to be real women—to be mothers. Any excessive tenderness or compassion for their child was removed. If the baby was defective he should be killed, and if not, should be tanned as soon as possible to be able to withstand a Spartan life. The first years of the existence of a toddler marked him for the rest of his life and this was understood by the Spartan women, who carefully applied themselves into the task of raising men and women.

Instead of swaddling the babies in bandages, warm clothes, diapers and blankets like larvae, the nursing mothers of Sparta put them on supple, thin and light fabrics; freeing the limbs so they could move them at will and experience the freedom of the body. They knew that babies have a fresher and intact immune system than adults, and if they were taught to endure cold and heat at an early age, not only they would not resent it, but would harden them and make them more immune in the future. Instead of giving in to the cries of babies, Spartan women accustomed them not to complain. Instead of allowing whims for food or overfeeding them with super-purified, ultra-hyper-sterilized and disinfected food that made their immune systems lose attention, they fed them with a coarse and natural diet. Instead of committing the aberration of feeding them with animal, pasteurized, boiled milk stripped of its natural qualities, Spartan women nursed their children themselves, helping to form the maternal bonding.

During the first seven years one more task was ensured so that the infants faced their fears. Spartan mothers and nannies resorted to various methods. Instead of allowing babies to develop fear of the dark, newborns were left in the dark so they could get used to it. Instead of making the babies feel they do not fend for themselves, the were often left alone. They were taught not to cry or complain; to be tough and endure loneliness, although they did remove the objects or impede situations that could make children upset or cry justifiably.

Little Spartans were not exactly pampered like children today are overprotected, overfilled with warm clothes, bulky diapers, hats, scarves, mittens, booties, lace, bells, effeminate and garish designs that make the poor creature look like a ridiculous, swollen and multicolored ball: restricting his growth, stunting his immunity, isolating him from his environment and preventing feeling it, adapting to it and developing a complicity with it. They were not surrounded by sycophants at all hours hanging on their whining. Nor were subjected to concerts of cries, cuddles and hysterical laughter from unhealthy women: noises that confuse the child and make him feel uncomfortable and ridiculous.

Spartan mothers did not reprimand their children when they showed curiosity, or when they ventured or soiled in the field; or when they went alone or out exploring or playing hurt because that would hinder their initiative. This custom of over-pampering children and reproaching when taking risk is not typical of Indo-European, demanding and manly societies. Spartan children were allowed to penetrate nature, run through the fields and woods; climb trees, rocks, getting dirty, bloodied, being together and fighting and walking totally naked; not letting outdoors a single portion of untanned skin.

All physically and spiritually healthy men felt the call of heroism, war and weapons from an early age: an instinct that the race has injected them into the blood to ensure its defense. Far from encouraging a distaste for violence that is always given to children, the Spartan women encouraged it when possible. Each time the children looked a Spartan soldier it was created around him an aura of mystery and adoration: they admired him and had him as model and example, and wanted to emulate him soon.

As a result of these wise policies Spartan nurses were famous in all Hellas, for their ways produced as mature, tough, disciplined and responsible children that many foreigners rushed to hire their services to raise their own children under Spartans methods. For example, the famous Athenian Alcibiades (450-404 BCE), nephew of Pericles and student of Socrates, was raised by the Spartan nurse Amicla.

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 6:13 pm  Comments (3)  

Sparta – VII

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The discipline of suffering, of great suffering—do you not know that it is this discipline alone which has created every elevation of mankind hitherto? —Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil


The education of children

At seven years of age—the age at which the pituitary and pineal glands begin to degenerate—, Spartan children were tougher, stronger, wiser, fiercer and more mature than most adults of today. And even though they were not men, they were already well prepared for the arrival of masculinity. At this age—five according to Plutarch—they began their Agoge, which means training or instruction. (It is intriguing how this coincided with the learning process of European medieval chivalry, when at seven children were separated from their families and became apprentices. Seven years later, at the age of fourteen, passed to be squires. And seven years later, at twenty-one, they were knighted.)

A motion process was set related to maternal influence—reminiscence of the time of delivery—, and in a single blow the other, intangible “umbilical cord” was cut, which still subsisted between mother and son. Children were torn, therefore, from their mothers and placed under military tutelage with other children of the same age, under the command of an instructor, the paidonomos: a kind of supervisor who was usually an outstanding lad between eighteen and twenty years old who would soon end his own instruction. When he was absent for some reason, any citizen (that is, any Spartan male who had already finished his instruction) could order them whatever, or punish them as he saw fit. Instruction lasted no more and no less than thirteen years, during which children were already educated and disciplined by men, in order to become men.

The Agoge is perhaps the most brutal and effective system of physical, psychological and spiritual training ever created. The education that Spartan children received was obviously of paramilitary type, which in some cases was clearly oriented to guerrilla war in the mountains and forests, for the child to fuse with nature and feel like the king predator. For all we know it was a superhuman process, a living hell almost of spiritual and physical alchemy, infinitely harder than any military training of the present because it was far more dangerous, lasting (thirteen years), exhausting, and because the tiniest faults were punished with huge doses of pain—and because the “recruits” were children of seven years.

Immediately after entering the Agoge, the first thing done to the kids was shaving their heads. Certainly that was the most convenient for those who were destined to move through dense vegetation, bite the mud and fight each other. But the sacrifice of the hair implied a kind of “mystical death”: waived possessions, decorations, individuality and beauty were renounced, even one’s own welfare was neglected (the hair is important for physical and spiritual health). The “recruits” were homogenized and given a sense of nakedness, loneliness, helplessness and of a beginning (babies are born bald), a “start from scratch,” throwing them sharply to a world of cruelty, pain, resignation and sacrifice.

This is not isolated or arbitrary. The first armies, composed of many men who had to live together in a small space, saw the need to keep the hair short to prevent the spread of lice and disease. Furthermore, a shaved head must have meant something more to them. The Egyptian priests of the highest degree, the Roman legionaries and the Templars also shaved the head as well as, to this day, Buddhist monks and numerous military units. When a group becomes uniform its members will not be differentiated anymore by their “personal” appearances or by their external differentiations, but for the qualities that protrude from scratch on equal footing with their comrades. Paradoxically, standardizing a group is the best method to observe carefully what really distinguishes individuals.

Children understood what it was suggested: giving up on themselves, or as Goethe said “give up existence in order to exist.” Only the one who does not cling pathetically to his life can live as a real man, and only one who does not cling desperately to his ego and his individuality may reach a truly consolidated and distinct character.

After shaving the head, children were organized by Agelai (hordes or bands) in paramilitary style. The hardest, more beautiful, fiercest and fanatical children (i.e., the “natural leaders”) were made horde chiefs as soon as identified. In the area of doctrine and morals, the first thing was to inculcate the recruits love for their horde: a holy obedience without limits for their instructors and their bosses, and make it clear that the most important thing was to show immense energy and aggressiveness. For his brothers his relations were perpetual rivalry and competition. Those children were treated like men, but those who treated them so would not lose sight they were still children. They were also stamped with the mark that distinguishes every fierce and confident puppy of his abilities: impatience, the desire to demonstrate and be tested, and the desire to be distinguished by his qualities and merits within his pack.

Inherent to the Spartan instruction was the feeling of selection and elitism. Would-be candidates were told they were the best of Spartan childhood, but that they had to prove it, and that not everyone was worthy of becoming a real Spartan. They got into their heads that they were not all equal, and therefore were all different. And if they were different some were better or worse or had different qualities. And, if so, the best should be over the worst, and each placed in its rightful place according to their qualities. This is why an Order was named thus.

Children were taught to use the sword, the spear, the dagger and the shield, and they marched in close formation even in rough terrain, making the movements with precision and perfect timing. A hardening, physical processes prevailed and they were delivered to many physical exercises designed to encourage the development of their strength and their latent warlike qualities: running, jumping, javelin and disc hurling; dancing, gymnastics, swimming, wrestling, archery, boxing and hunting are some examples.

To promote competitiveness and fighting spirit, and to accustom them to violence and teamwork, hordes of Spartan children were made to compete with each other in a violent ball game which was basically a variant, much freer and brutal, of rugby. The players were called sfareis (ball players). We can imagine those little shaven heads delivering each other wild jolts in every possible way, colliding, dodging and trying to fight for coordination, obtaining possession of the ball and taking it to the agreed target, beyond the opponent’s territory and over the bodies of the opponent. We almost can, also, hear the thuds, the screams, the coordination signals, the creaking of the elbows, knees, punches, the headers, the tackles and sprains there must have happened in that game that transformed characters and personalities and leaders as a smith.

In the sanctuary of the goddess Artemis took place many melee fighting rituals among the very young Spartans. They were also faced without further ado horde against horde, child against child or all against all, in fierce fights tooth and nail and clean punches to stimulate aggression, competition and an offensive spirit, to develop their sense of mastery in the chaos of struggles and to build hierarchies. It is easy to imagine the chipped teeth, crushed noses and cheekbones, bloody faces and hands, fainting and open heads in those fierce children fights. In addition, instructors were responsible for setting them on so that they measured the forces between them, provided it was only for competition and desire to excel, and when they saw the foaming of hatred to emerge, the fight was stopped. Perhaps it would have been normal that at the end of the fight the opponents would salute or compliment each other, commenting the fight among them, with their peers and with their instructors and trying to learn. In Sparta ruled that ancient cult that we may call “mysteries of the fight.”

Besides boxing and wrestling the Spartans also exercised other popular martial art in Greece: the pankration. It consisted of a mix of boxing and wrestling, similar to the modern disciplines of mixed martial arts and vale tudo, but more brutal: participants could incorporate into the bands of their fists the accessories of what they believed was suitable to increase their offensive power: some added pieces of wood, tin foil and even lead plates.

The rules were simple: everything was allowed but biting, poking in the eyes, nose or mouth of the adversary. It was also forbidden to deliberately kill the opponent, but yet many were those who died in this bloody sport. In those combats if you could not proclaim a winner before sunset they resorted to klimax, a solution equivalent to tie on penalties in soccer games. By turns, each wrestler had the right to hit the other, without the receiver being allowed to dodge or defend in any way. One who would strike the blow told his opponent what position he should take to receive the attack. The goal was to see who first fell out of combat.

Greek history gives us an example with a bout between such and such Damogenes and Creugas, which reached a “draw,” so klimax was applied. After drawing lots, the first to hit was Creugas, who asked his opponent to come down the arms, so that he gave him a powerful punch in the face. Damogenes received the tremendous blow with dignity, after which he asked Creugas lift his left arm. Immediately afterwards he inserted his fingers violently under his ribs and tore the bowels out.

The pacifists and progressives of today that praise Greece should know that force, ferocity and violence were worshiped, in addition to wisdom. The Greeks philosophized and were “civilized,” yes, but when needed (or just as a hobby) they knew how to be perfect animals. That was their duality—a duality of union, not separation, a duality that sought the perfect integration of mind and body, light in darkness, overcoming their separation.

In all the struggles, battles, competitions and games, the instructors put great attention to distinguish whether each child’s screams were of anger, stress or aggression; or of pain and fear in which case they were punished. If a boy complained to his father that he had been hit by another child, his father gave him a beating for snitching and failing to seek life: “Complaining is of no use at all: it is something that comes from weakness.” And that weakness, in a Spartan, was unacceptable. As said, all citizens had the right to reprimand the children, so that parents had authority over their own children and those of others.

Thus, each parent treated other children as he wanted others treat his, as Xenophon observed. If a child, then, complained to his father that a citizen had given him lashes, the father whipped him even more. In Sparta all was this rotund, blunt, brutal and simple. Indeed, every Spartan child called “father” any adult male, similar to when today we respectfully call “grandfather” an elderly stranger. This habit of calling “father” the grown-ups also was suggested by Plato in his Republic, a book that looks like a carbon-copy of Sparta.

It is through the conquests, victories and defeats that the warrior does know himself and the enemy—in the case of Sparta, his fellows. And when a man knows himself, his neighbors and the enemy, wisdom of life is accomplished. Thus he acquires security, prudence, intuition and high confidence. Each Spartan knew his brother because surely he had fought against him, or seen him fight, or had played with him in this rough rugby, or otherwise had suffered together. His whole life was a civil war. They fought against themselves and each other, which did not mean they were no longer together: quite the opposite. This system was a useful outlet for the anger of the race, which was elsewhere tragic in fratricidal conflict, and Sparta almost harmlessly vented such aggression in competitions.

All aspects of the Spartan child’s life were regulated to increase his insensitivity to suffering and aggression. You will be put under a ruthless discipline that requires you to learn to control pain, hunger, thirst, cold, heat, fear, fatigue, disgust, discomfort and lack of sleep. You will be taught survival skills in the field including tracking, guidance, hunting, water extraction and knowledge of edible plants. This will reduce your dependence on civilization and you will be put in touch with the tradition of our hunter-gatherer ancestors of more primitive times.

To achieve all this, the strict and unscrupulous instructors used any means possible to their reach. Wear situations imposed on the young were so intense that they would probably come to a state very close to dementia, with the presence of hallucinations induced by lack of sleep and food. The mastigophora (carriers of the whip) were charged to brutally beat and even torture anyone who failed, complained or moaned in pain, so that the tasks came up perfect.

Sometimes children were whipped for no reason, only to harden them, and the Spartan boys would rather die than groan and ask why they were whipped. Spartan philosophy coincided with Nietzsche’s when they thought “Blessed is what hardens us!” There even were competitions to see who could hold the most numerous and intense lashes without shouting. This was known as diamastigosis.

Sometimes the priestess of Artemis ordered that, in her presence and before an image of the goddess, some children chosen by her to be whipped. If the ceremony-torture was not liked by the priestess she ordered the whipping intensified. These children not only had the obligation not to show pain, but to show joy. The macabre winner of the competition was he who endured longer without complaint. It happened that some died without groaning. It would be said that this is sadomasochistic nonsense, but we cannot judge an ancient custom with modern mentality.

Surely the event inculcated in the victims the notion of sacrifice for the archetype of their homeland (Artemis) and taught them to master suffering with that divinity in mind. Meanwhile, in the rest of Greece athletes underwent voluntarily lashes sessions since it helped tighten their skin and body, and purging the impurities. And Sparta was, undeniably, an athletic state. (He who has been in countries where lashes are still used as punishment will have noticed how much the unfortunate victim transpires, leaving a huge puddle on the floor at the end of execution.)

Nietzsche described the lack of pity towards the promising candidates: “I spare you not, I love you from my very heart, my brethren in war!” And in words that seem aimed at an instructor, a manufacturer of overmen, he says: “To thee one law—be pure and bright!” Compassion was the worst poison for Sparta, because it preserved and prolonged the life of all weak and dying—whether it was compassion towards themselves, their peers or the enemies. In the Song of the Lord, the monumental Indo-Iranian Bhagavad-Gita, it is written that “the truly wise mourn neither for the living nor for the dead.”

To suffer and endure pain without complaining was part of the Spartan idiosyncrasy. Boys were proud of the amount of pain they could endure through clenched teeth, and remember that Nietzsche also said that the degree of suffering to which a man is able to tolerate determines his hierarchical place. It is perfectly understandable that this kind of stoicism be interpreted as a masochistic cult of suffering, but we must avoid falling into this error of interpretation. In Sparta the suffering was a means to awaken the fighter’s instincts of a man and to liaise with his body and with Earth itself. Suffering was not meekly accepted with the head down: it was struggled to dominate it, and everything was intended to achieve indifference to suffering—unlike the masochistic cults, as are some variants of modern Christianity or the modern “humanitarian” atheist which produces sentimental and tender beings even for the pain of others.

Loyalty was a very important part of Spartan training. According to Seneca, “Loyalty is the holiest good in the human heart,” and according to Goethe, it “is the effort of a noble soul to match a bigger soul than his.” Loyalty conducted the children towards higher forms and served to make them greater. Spartan boys were inculcated into unswerving loyalty to themselves, their peers and their own Order—i.e. the Spartan state. “My honor is called loyalty,” said the SS, and it could have also been a good motto for the Spartans. For them, loyalty was an asceticism that led them down the road of the right order, morality of honor (aidos and timé) and compliance with the sacred duty.

As mentioned, obedience was also paramount in the instruction, but to what extent was such obedience fulfilled? The answer is: it had no bounds. It was put to the test every day. A Spartan boy could be ordered to kill a helot child or provoke a fight with a partner, and it was assumed he would not ask questions but obey quietly and efficiently. He could be given seemingly absurd or unworkable orders to test him, but the important thing was that, without hesitation, he blindly and unquestioned sought the obedience of such order. Obeying was sacred and basic, because the higher knows something the subordinate does not know. In the Army it is said, “He who obeys is never wrong.” Young Spartans were constantly tested. If a Spartan boy were told to jump off a cliff, he probably would not have hesitated and would throw himself without blinking and furious conviction.

All this, to profane eyes, all of it may seem exaggerated and outrageous, but the profane still does not understand what it means. When the individual is sure to belong to “something,” of being directly in the service of the divine, the orders are not questioned because they come from Above, from somewhere they cannot understand—for now. Serving a similar but higher individual is self-serving, because that control is the community of which the individual is a part. When all the pieces of a gear assume their role with conviction it gives a general sense of calm, confidence, and order that allows men to perform the most dangerous and heroic deeds naturally.

Adolf Hitler said: “the conviction that obeying the voice of duty works for the conservation of the species helps the most serious decisions.” If something unjust is ordered it was for the greater good, and in any case questions were never asked. They were obeyed for the sake of obedience, as part of a military-monastic discipline. Obeying an order was obeying to oneself and to the clan, because the chief was an embodiment of the will of the clan. Nietzsche himself advised: “So live your life of obedience and of war!” This magic of loyalty, duty and obedience is what leads the great men to the path of glory.

Instruction was outdoors. The Spartan boys were always immersed in Nature: in nature’s sounds, vibrations, landscapes, animals, trees, changes, cycles and nature’s will. They learned to join their homeland; know it, love it and consider it a home. They were forced always to walk barefoot and directly touch the earth: feeling it, understanding it, connecting directly to it as trees. The masseuses know that the feet are the “remote control” of the bodily organs. Having your feet directly in contact with the earth is, undoubtedly, an important massaging effect on the whole body—a destroyed effect today with soles and heels that rumple the natural shape of the foot at work. And not only that: walking bare feet hardened the feet as wood, and eventually the young Spartans moved more lightly on the land than those who had softened their feet with shoes, as feet are designed for that, and if presently this does not work is because we did not develop them, nor tanned them as would be natural.

In winter, Spartans children had to take baths in the icy river Eurotas. They dressed alike in winter than in summer, and slept outdoors on hard reeds torn by the river and cut by hand. The maneuvers and marches they carried out were exhausting, and would kill almost any man of our day—in fact some Spartan boys died of exhaustion. Gradually, the bodies of the boys grew accustomed to cold and heat, developing their own defense mechanisms. Gradually, they became increasingly harder, stronger and more resistant.

As nutrition, they were deliberately assigned an insufficient ration, which included the harsh and bitter Spartan black bread and the famous Spartan melas zomos (black soup), which was downright inedible for any non-Spartan. (The bitter black bread was also common in the German military of World War II.) It is said it contained, among other things, blood and pig entrails, salt and vinegar (think of the ingredients of the sausage or black pudding). Probably the ingestion of such concoction was itself a practice of self-control that helped to harden the mouth, stomach and digestive tract. Spartan food, generally, was considered by other Greeks as very strong, if not disgusting. (The development of very strong “delicacies” whose mere ingestion shows courage and resistance is a common military motif. Think of a concoction called “panther’s milk” including condensed milk and gin, popular in the Spanish Legion who sometimes even added gunpowder.)

Moreover, rough and scanty food rations moved the Spartan boys to seek their own food by hunting and gathering or theft, which they themselves cooked. If discovered in the act of stealing food they would expect brutal beating or whipping and deprivation of food for several days, and not for stealing the food which could be stolen from the helots—but for having been caught. Somehow, this reminded the tradition of “right of prey” of the ancient Indo-European hordes: ancient armies usually lacked any campaigns of logistics and survived thanks to taking it from Nature or by plundering their enemies and indigenous populations.

Sparta wanted to teach people to obtain food by their own and getting them used to this; thus adapting them to a lifestyle of uncertainty and deprivation. They lived in a perpetual state of war, and they wanted a right mentalizing. Already Xenophon said, “A hunter, accustomed to fatigue, makes a good soldier and a good citizen.” On the other hand, Sparta greatly respected the animals and like the Dorians even retained archaic cult divinities with animal parts (like the Apollo Karneios with ram’s horns), which symbolizes the condensation of the totemic qualities associated to the animal in question. Spartan boys who lived in the open should have felt identified with many of the animals around them, forging a certain complicity with them.

We know the story of the Spartan boy who, having captured a fox as food, hid it under his cloak to hide from a group of approaching soldiers. The fox, desperate, began using his teeth and claws to attack the child’s body, but he endured it without shouting. When the blood flowed, the fox became more aggressive and began to rip pieces of flesh of the child, literally eating him alive. And the boy endured the pain without screaming. When the fox had come to his gut, gnawing the organs, the small Spartan fell dead and silent in a discrete pool of blood, without leaving out a moan or even having shown signs of pain. It was not fear that made him hide his hunting, for surely that slow and painful death was worse than a lot of lashes. It was his honor, his discipline, the capacity for suffering, will, strength and toughness—qualities that in his short life he had developed more than any adult in the present. This macabre anecdote, related by Plutarch, is not intended as an apology (after all, Sparta lost in this child an excellent soldier), but an example of Spartan stoicism, which sometimes reached delirious extremes.

With measures of food shortages they wanted to encourage the body, by being deprived from growth in the width, to have more strength and stature. (This produced results, as Xenophon described Spartans as higher than the other Greeks, although heredity also played an important role in this.) They favored the emergence of higher, compact, robust, flexible, slender, hard, agile, strong and athletic bodies; taking a maximized advantage of it with a concentrated, trimmed and fibrous-to-the-end muscles, not prone to injury and with great endurance to pain, fatigue, hunger, thirst, heat, cold, disease, shock, tremendous efforts or prolonged and terrible wounds.

Those were not bodies with overdeveloped muscles, requiring an immense diet and constant and impractical maintenance. Bodies were concentrated, whole and proportionate, designed to survive with the minimum: perfect biological machines which could be studied at a glance in every vein, every tendon, every ligament, every muscle and muscle fiber at the skin’s surface. Their strength should have been awesome, otherwise they would not have been able to live, march and fight with the full force of weapons, armor, shield, etc. Plutarch said that the bodies of the Spartans were “hard and dry.” Xenophon, on his part, stated that “it is easy to see that these measures could only produce an outstanding race and strength and building. It would be difficult to find a people more healthy and efficient than the Spartans.”

This was the most appropriate body for the fighter. Plato in his Republic, made clear that the careful diet and regimen of specific exercises that the athletes practiced made them not to surrender when suddenly they were deprived from their routines—during a military campaign for example—, as their bodies were too used to have such amount of nutrients and rely on them. In extreme situations, such bodies reacted instinctively by reducing muscle mass and producing exhaustion, weakness and malaise. At the Battle of Stalingrad many German fighters inexplicably dropped dead. It was later learned that it was a combination of both hunger, cold and exhaustion. The most affected by this death were precisely the burly and massive men, that is, those requiring more maintenance in terms of food and rest.

Wrestlers of all ages were able to understand this, among them the Roman legionaries who looked for hard, strong and concentrated bodies; and the SS, who exercised without pause, eating a poor diet that included the famous porridge oats: a porridge that so much influenced physiologically the proverbial impassivity of both the English and the Swedes. (We know that oats also influences the tranquility of racehorses, and the athletic diets usually incorporate it.)

As shown by their lifestyle, the Spartans were certainly muscular, but not overdone as far as volume is concerned. They were not massive like the body-builder monsters of today, and to be sure of what we say it is enough to see the nutritional deprivation they suffered, and the exercise regimen they had, so abundant and intense in aerobic efforts. Their level of definition and muscle tone, however, must have been awesome.

Spartan boys were taught to observe, to listen, to learn, to be discreet, not to ask questions and assimilate in silence. They were taught that withdrawal or surrender in battle was a disgrace, that all combat should end in victory or death and that, as Xenophon said, “A death with honor is preferable to a life without honor.” Or in the words of Nietzsche, “To die proudly when it is no longer possible to live proudly.”

The Spartans, like the Celtic Druids and the perfect Cathars and Templars were forbidden to do heavy manual work: their job was war. However, when giving up manual labor they also renounced the fruits of such work: They were imbued with austerity, simplicity and asceticism in all aspects of his life, eliminating anything that might soften or weaken them. Their gestures were measured, reduced, and righteous, and their manners solemn and respectful. Their houses totally lacked any decoration and had a rustic and rough look, of stone and wood. The aim was to increase the lack of need for each Spartan, his personal self-sufficiency.

In fact, they were not allowed the luxury of the language, so they spoke the right words, dryly, directly, firmly and martially. A Spartan child should remain silent in public, and if you spoke to him he had to respond as soon as possible, with elegance and conciseness, military-style. The Spartan language was like the Spartan village: scanty but of high quality. It was a language of voice, command and obedience. It was infinitely more unpleasant in sound, more mechanical, hard and rough even than the legionnaire Latin or the most martial German. The rough Dorian dialect spoken in Sparta, the “laconic,” has become synonymous with dryness and simplicity of speech.

And simplicity of speech is essential for a higher spirituality. Lao Tzu, the legendary messenger of Taoism, said “To speak little is natural.” There are numerous and illustrative examples of Spartan brevity. This is a good one: On one occasion in which a Spartan garrison was about to be surrounded and attacked by surprise, the Spartan government simply sent them the message: “Warning.” That was enough for men spending a lifetime in military exercising. “To a good listener, few words” (are enough) says Spanish proverb.

The Spartan laconic manners are the direct opposite to the vulgar quackery of today when many opinionated, hysterical voices blend miserably without harmony, destroying silence with nonsensical words: a silence that would be infinitely preferable to that hustle. Speech is far more important than what is accepted today. It condenses communication between people, decisively influencing the way that the individual perceives those around him, particularly his fellow-men. The individual learns to know himself better through knowledge of their fellows, and the concept he has of their peers will have an echo in his own self-esteem. Nietzsche himself, a scholar of philology, attached great importance to speech, dedicating lengthy paragraphs to it.

To learn about politics, solemn manners, respect for the elders and government affairs, Spartan children were taken to the Army guilds or Syssitias (which I will describe later), where young and old men philosophized, talked, and discussed about the affairs of the day. Plutarch said that for the very young attendance at these circles was like a “school of temperance” where they learned to behave like men and “trick” an adversary. They were taught to make fun of others with style, and face teasing. Should it be bad a joke, they should declare themselves offended and the offender immediately ceased. The grown-ups tried to test children to know them better and identify their strengths, and the children should manage to make a good impression and look good during those congregations of attentive veterans, responding with greater ingenuity and promptly to the most twisted, malicious and gimmick questions.

In the Syssitias children learned also the aristocratic and ironic humor typical of the Spartans, learning to joke with elegance and humorously. It is not strange at all that a people like the Spartans, aristocratic, solemn and martial, accorded great importance to humor and laughter—the Spartans had to be especially masters of black humor. Although the helots probably found fascinating the seriousness of the Spartans and would consider them repressed, the Spartans among themselves were like brothers. On order by the very Lycurgus, a statue of the god of laughter decorated the Syssitias. Laughter was indeed of great therapeutic importance. We can imagine the joy, the emotions and laughter that were heard in the sporting competitions, matches and tournaments of Sparta, as in the hour of playing and competing the most solemn and trained men become children.

Education, courtesy and manners were greatly appreciated in Sparta. Why was this so important? Simply because when members of a group follow exemplary behavior, respect prevails; and you want to do well to maintain the honor and gain the respect of your comrades. Further, when members of a group indulge in deplorable attitudes or decadent diversions, respect diminishes, and the prestige within the group disappears. Why earning the respect of the unworthy through sacrifice if they not even respect the spirit of excellence? The result is plain to see when those renounce to act exemplarily: one is left to soak in the degenerated atmosphere and imitates what he sees. The Spartans sensed this, and established a strict code of conduct and solemn manner at all times to start a virtuous circle.

Spartan instructors often caught the helots and forced them to get drunk; dress ridiculously, dance grotesque dances and sing stupid songs (they were not allowed to recite poems or sing songs of the “free men”). Thus adorned they were presented to the children themselves as an example of the damage caused by alcohol, and the undesirability of drinking too much or drinking at all.

Let us imagine the psychological impact of a proud, hard tanned Spartan boy contemplating an inferior ridiculously dressed, dancing awkwardly and singing incoherently. All this staging served for the Spartan boy to experience a good deal of disgust towards his enemies, who were taught to despise. In Sparta there was no vice of alcoholism, as a drunkard would had been fanatically pulp-beaten to the death as soon as spotted. It was Lycurgus himself who had ordered to weed the grapevines outside Sparta, and overall alcohol was something considered with utmost caution, distrust and control.

The lifestyle of the Spartan children would kill in less than a day the vast majority of adults of today. How did they endure? Simply because they had been bred for it. From an early age they were taught to be tough and strong, tanning in nature and neglecting the comforts of civilization. And the children’s bodies and spirits learned quickly and adapted easily to any situation, developing the qualities they needed to survive. Moreover, they were not allowed contact with anything that might soften them in the least, and so grew uncorrupted and uncontaminated.

As they grew, children discipline became tougher: puberty approached. Such transit in a society as close to its tribal roots as the Spartan must necessarily be accompanied by some kind of initiation ritual, probably in the brotherhoods to which they belonged. It is in adolescence when young people are initiated in their own incipient masculinity, and in Sparta they were prepared so that the advent of the male forces did not catch their innocent instincts by surprise. So, on the fly, and day to day, they were learning to become men without the chaotic physiological and mental imbalances currently rigged at arrival of adolescence.

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 6:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sparta – VIII

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The education of adolescents

We know with certainty that, at the gates of puberty, there was a brutal initiation ritual of physical and psychological type to be overcome in order to continue with the instruction. During the festival of the goddess Artemis, the altar was filled with tasty cheese. Aspiring lads had to steal as many cheeses as they could, but this must outwit a phalanx of armed lads with whips, instructed to use them unscrupulously in the task of protecting the altar. To achieve their objective, the boys must learn to coordinate and demonstrate a spirit of sacrifice and selflessness. Everyone received terrible wounds, but it was necessary to endure the pain as they stole the pieces. Sometimes a boy died. In Sparta there were many tests of this type, whose goal was to bring applicants to the limit to harden them up, also discarding the weak. Those who, covered in blood, bore the “ceremony” with no moan, cry pain or scream were awarded crowns of leaves and hailed as heroes for their people, acclaimed by their elders, young girls and the younger siblings, who found the triumph inspiring. Thus, the victorious became eirenes or irenes (ephebes).

From the moment following the festival of Artemis, a transformation operated in the instruction of the boys who had passed the test. They came from the gangs, receiving out a simple himation (woolen clothing) each year, being forbidden the chiton (common tunic). Discipline became stricter.

According to Xenophon, Lycurgus realized that, from adolescence, self-will is rooted in the mind of the boy. It looms in his conduct a subtle trend of insolence which marks the beginning of a selfish appetite and individualistic pleasure. Also, the stage that separates the fearful and innocent child from the wise veteran is a thin red line of imprudence and recklessness, typical of adolescence and those who, having learned a lot but not enough, tend to overestimate themselves and commit dangerous blunders. And that is the most difficult step in any learning: when you think you know “enough.”

To counter this potential pride, Spartan ephebes had to walk through the streets in silence, with their head bowed and their hands hidden, without looking around but fixing their eyes on the ground, taking a walk of monks, as centuries later would walk the perfect Manichean. Boys who would otherwise be the loudest and annoying were converted into gray and ghostly silhouettes. This, of course, was not permanent but temporary and contributed to strengthen the humility and modesty of the young Spartans; and to raise the pride of those who, after concluding their instruction, were allowed to walk with their heads held high. It also helped in the meantime that the citizens would not feel offended by the presumption of the candidates, since there is nothing to offend more a seasoned veteran than an arrogant and cocky “newbie” too proud of his achievements.

But on the other hand, the ephebes were first taught to read and write, and were taught music, dance, mythology and poetry. And, for the first time since they were seven years old, long hair was permitted: in which care they would rush, gradually getting spotless manes and feel pride of them, since the hair was “the cheapest ornament” and, according to Lycurgus, “adds beauty to a beautiful face, and terror to an ugly face.” Wearing long hair was an ancient Greek custom that somehow recalled the barbarian origins of the race. Many have given long hair, especially in the case of women, the importance of signs of fertility: nervous system extensions and tuners of spiritual capacities. Archetypically, it is the manifestation of the spiritual bell that comes from the top head of the consummate practitioner of inner alchemy. On the formation of long hair act factors such as nutrition, health, exposure to sun and air, and exercise. Thus the mane should be something like a banner of individuality, a personal identification sign denoting the health and habits of the individual.

What is clear is that for some young people who had been at age seven with a shaved head, a grown hair should have represented a sign of psychological improvement, and convey the sense of a new, more spiritual stage, less helpless and raw, less brutal. After the painful stage in which children sacrificed their hair, they had conquered the beauty and individuality allowed to their perfect ancestors. Both the shaved head like the achievement of long hair were for the Spartans two stages of an archetypal transformation process, internal and external.

The most important new material of this period was the music, which was oriented to religious, patriotic and war hymns. The songs and the singing together is something that helps the united cultivation of the spirit and strengthen the cohesion of the collective unconscious. Each alliance of warriors always has had its songs. In Sparta there were numerous choirs, and every Spartan child should learn to sing in a chorus. In many ceremonies three groups were organized: one of old people, other of young males and another for children. When elders began singing “In the past we were young and brave and strong,” the young men continued “and so are we now, come and check it out for,” and the kids responded “but soon we will be the stronger.” A nation that prides itself always seeks that each generation is better than the previous as time goes on, like a wolf pack: the younger vigorous and impulsive generations replace the older in positions through direct action.

Great emphasis was placed in the cultivation of memory, and the young Spartans memorized ballads of the poet Tyrtaeus, who had helped them so much in the second Messenian war. As an example of the poetry of Tyrtaeus, forgive the following snippet:

Let’s advance by locking a concave wall of shields, marching in rows of Pamphyli, Hylleis, Dymanes [the three originating Dorian tribes], and waving in the murderer hands the spears. Thus entrusting us to the Eternal Gods, without delay we comply with the orders of the captains, and we all right away go to the rude fray, firmly raising in front of those spearmen. Tremendous will be the crash when both armies collide their round shields and resonate when abut each other… Well, it’s a beautiful die if you fall into that vanguard like brave warrior who fights for his country… with courage fight for the homeland and the children, and die without begrudging now our lives…

Those who dare, in closed row, to fight melee and advance in vanguard in fewer number die, and save those who follow them. Those who are left with nothing tremble without honor… Go in melee combat, with long spear or sword smite and finish with the fierce enemy. Putting foot by foot, squeezing shield to shield, plume with plume and helmet to helmet, chest to chest fight against the other, handling the hilt of the sword or the long spear… Go forward, children of the citizens of Sparta, the city of the brave warriors! With the left hold firm your shield, and the spear brandish boldly, without worrying to save your life: that is not the custom of Sparta. Make the spirit of your heart strong and courageous, and do not fall in love with life when you are fighting men.

The Spartan ephebes assiduously studied Homer, whose many verses could recite. But of course, the military-physical training did not stop ever, and was always the main subject. As they were getting older some boys were placed in front of the gangs of younger children, either as paidonomos or mastigophora. The desire of the veteran to make the rookie suffer to perfect him and cure him, teaching him everything he had learned—and that occurs in any army—, was taken to squeeze the new generations and to excel the foregoing.

We have seen that all instruction was intended to cultivate Spartan abilities as will to power, decision-making, the pleasure of responsibility, valor, courage, bravery, stoicism, patriotism, the martial, the ability of leadership, sobriety, self-control, asceticism, austerity, sacrifice and suffering, courage, physical and moral toughness, the sense of duty and honor, fortitude, wisdom, psychological and spiritual balance; the quick wit, sharp and cold and chivalry education, character building, solemnity, respect, brevity, iron discipline, efficiency, holy obedience and aggression. A wide range of important and basic qualities, today endangered. But all these qualities would be useless if they were not used for something; if they had no objective, a single goal. Nietzsche wrote, “It is inexcusable that, having power, you do not want to dominate.”

Any discipline, asceticism, self-control, the terrible pain, the fear, the danger, the risk, rivalry, hunger, thirst, sleepiness, exhaustion, cold, heat, discomfort, the hideous cruelty, the suffering and fighting, the beating, whipping, insults, blood splashing everywhere, the constant omnipresence of deeper death and higher life leading to a prodigious tension of life, were a wonderful and magnificent expression of how a whole lineage wanted to be: furious, and, at all costs, the absolute masters of their own collective will enthroned on Earth and mercilessly crushing any enemy that arose. Are these bad feelings? Or, conversely, are they highest and most admirable sentiments, sacred impulses that prompt to live, to fight, to destroy, to create, to renew and translate into some eternal memory? These were qualities and feelings that Indo-European humanity has lost and must be recovered.

All this is great as it is. Now then, what was the result of these qualities and these feelings? What was the result of such education? What was the result of the discipline of great suffering? The result was a man of superior type, with a cool head and insensitive to pain, suffering and discomfort, who used to think quickly in times of great danger and stress. A soldier well versed in all the arts of war who used to fight to achieve his goals; a martial man bred and trained to rule. A fearless and fearsome man, that despised his own life for the sake of his people; despised more the others, so he was hard and ruthless. A mighty stoic man also despised all material trifles of worldly life, and his only dedication were his brothers in combat, his loyalty to his country, and his devotion to his family and wishes of divinity for his race.

A man accustomed to outdoor life, which forged an unbreakable bond with his land, which was regarded as a sacred legacy, a responsibility. A gymnast with impressive physical form, a true athlete. A warrior used to earn things by himself. Nothing done to him would break him; he was able to endure the most terrible pains and deepest spiritual tragedies as calmly as accepting the joys and triumphs. After having demonstrated the ability to obey, he earned the right to command.

Think of how Spartan children suffered the pain, fear, stress and exhaustion. What happened when they emerged from childhood? Into what they turned when growing and becoming men? How would the body of an adult Spartan look like? We can only imagine, but at his side the young athletes of the Athenian sculptures may seem harmless angels.

The Spartan body was immediately distinguished for being very willowy, slender, dark-skinned not for race but for exposure to the sun, air, moisture; to dry, fresh and salt water, the skewers of vegetation, to stinging insects, dust, land, rock, snow, rain, hail and, ultimately, all kinds of weather. This would make the Spartan skin so stranded and hard as wood. Second, the relief of his body would be highlighted. The type of physical training had favored the development muscle mass concentration, hardness, strength, extreme flexibility and the “purging” of all grease and impurities. Thus, the Spartan would be fibrous and bulky at once, and would look lean and sharp. Vascular fat and softness would shine by their absence; blood vessels, ligaments, fibers, muscles, nerves and tendons would stand almost grotesquely and ultimately, everything would appear to be a rough, twisted, tense and compact mass of roots, branches, wires, tubes, cutting, marking and stones with the color of the wood.

In addition we can figure out that their body would be entirely crossed by many scars. The marks of the lashes would be remarkable in many areas of the skin, but especially in the back. Each Spartan should be a differential map, with different types of signs of violence. Many would lack teeth, have a broken nose and scars on the skull and face: a legacy of melee combats and brutal ball games. The height of the Spartan, what their contemporaries have told us (remember Xenophon, though he lived in an already decadent stage of Sparta), must be high if we consider the malnutrition undergoing in childhood and puberty. In Thebes skeletons have been discovered belonging to a Spartan garrison, of which 180 centimeters must be a normal height among them. Spartan’s hair was long, usually blond. They were allowed to grow beards and took pride in their care, because for them the beard was a symbol of a free and accomplished man who chooses his life. Their faces with a hard look, a strong expression highlighted by the intensely of the blue eyes bequeathed by their Dorian ancestors.

The animals are remarkable for their hardness, their instinct, their resistance to pain and hunger, bad weather, and for their ferocity. The Spartans, thanks to the energy that only comes with experience, motivation and a fanatical and methodical training, were able to beat them. Through self-sacrifice and the risk posed by blindly lunging the unknown and the extreme, they were able to answer the question of where the limits of man lay, and what man is capable when a supernatural will dwells within and take firm roots throughout his being.

We cannot even imagine how were the men of ancient times, for their ferocity, determination and toughness. Well, of them all, the Spartan was the hardest and well-made, the most perfected and stronger. The instruction of the Spartans was brutal, but in one way or another, instructors have always unconsciously intuited that that is the best way to form good warriors.

On a much smaller scale, modern armies also employ brutality toward the recruits. The insults, shouting, offences, humiliation, beatings and hazing—modern initiations—help the novice to be ashamed of his former self, to get rid of it, forget it and change it to a personality that is coupled with that of his comrades: another piece of the puzzle that will become his unit. Moreover, often they are not called by names, but by nicknames (“war names”) or numbers. Exhaustive exercises, inconvenience, discomfort, suffering, fear, stress, disgust, etc., serve to sustain and promote the recruit and his humility and respect before what excels him. Only when the applicant has delivered himself as a sacrifice, voluntarily touching bottom in strenuous suffering, he may start from scratch again in a new way, with a transformed personality purged of its blemishes and tempered in the fire and the hammer of an ideal; firm, fanatic, sublime and sacred. Today only the vaguest trace of all this stoicism has reached us.

Public punishments, extremely difficult testing, the victory of each gang and good sports scores helped to reinforce the prestige of the Spartan community. A community not only has prestige for those who do not belong to it, but its members feel that same prestige internally. This morality, this esprit de corps, increased the pride of belonging to such community. The sacrifices that Sparta members underwent made everyone feel pride and honor in their contemplation. Every time a lad calmly endured a whipping session, every time another one beat a sport record, each time that, with his face torn and bleeding hands, the victorious fighter triumphed over himself and over probability, the will of each member of the community was persuaded: “such acts demonstrate the greatness of my community. I am proud to be with these men and will continue perfecting to reach their height.” And pride and elitism swelled as with fire. When called “equals” among each other, they felt mutually proud. And when a weak fell from exhaustion during a march, when another was punished for moaning in a fight or under the lashes, when another fainted of pain, when another did not return from the forest or mountain, when another died in a career or of hunger, the same iron will read these happenings: “Such acts show that not everyone has the honor of belonging to our community, but that it must be won. I want to win this honor and I am on track. And I want the weak to surrender, leave or be removed from our community for the sake of it.” That is, they dismissed those who might besmirch the honor of the word “ equal,” and such removal was a sacrifice that kept alive the flame of pride.

This group is to the amorphous collectivity what the pack is for the flock.

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 6:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sparta – IX

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Adult life

“To breed, to bleed, to lead.” —The law of the English aristocracy of old.

At age twenty, after thirteen years of an atrocious training that tanned their bodies for the rest of their lives, with scarred skin and crossed backs for the whipping, young Spartans reached the critical point in their lives. In case they did not successfully pass the final phase of instruction they became perioeci or perioikoi. The others were destined for a solemn ceremony in which the diverse military communities called Syssitias (which could be defined as communal meals, guilds or Army clubs), formed to recruit members among the recently promoted. The Syssitias had from fifteen to twenty members. Some had more prestige than others, and they tried to keep up their fame by recruiting the new “promotion.” Evaluating a candidate took into account his reputation, his toughness, his skill with weapons, his courage, his audacity, his presence, his fitness and intelligence.

The candidate presented himself in the table of the Syssitia he aspired to join. Syssitia members then deposited small pieces of bread in an urn. The contents of the urn were inspected, and if only one of the pieces had been deliberately flattened by one of the members, the candidate was rejected. Often it was the case that the best young, the most promising and famous, were disputed by several prestigious Syssitias, while the less remarkable were incorporated into the less demanding. In any case, it was rare that a young Spartan was denied entry to any Syssitia. But in the unlikely event of being rejected by all, the young man in question became hypomeion (inferior). An outcast who ate alone because of being rejected even by the most mediocre Syssitias implied that the candidate was undesirable for his comrades. He had the option to clean his honor through courageous deeds, or to fall in battle.

Joining a Syssitia meant that the member happened to be accepted by their peers as a Spartiate with all obligations, but would not acquire full citizenship rights until age thirty. That is, after thirteen years of training and after entering the Army, there were still ten years of “probation” which coincided with the period of greatest biological flourishing.

Note that the criterion of the age of majority at twenty, and that other issues such as purity in matters of sex was shared by the Germans. Julius Caesar said about them in Gallic Wars:

From childhood they devote themselves to fatigue and hardships. Those who have remained chaste for the longest time receive the greatest commendation among their people. They think that, by doing this, growth is promoted… And to have had knowledge [sex] of a woman before the twentieth year they reckon among the most disgraceful acts. However, there is some hypocrisy in them in body issues, since men and women bath naked together in rivers and in their dresses so much of the body remains naked.

What is said here is exactly valid also for the Spartans who, as Indo-Europeans of tradition, drank from the same sources as the Germans. From an early age there was suffering, stimuli, glory and camaraderie to clear the path to manhood when it arrived, following aidos morale (“modesty,” “decency”). And even when maturity had arrived sexual abstinence was maintained until the young man was spiritually able to take control of his instincts. The end of all the preparatory stages was to accumulate energy and testosterone to grow; to complete without interference the biological alchemy that takes place in the male body during this stage.

In each Syssitia the member was required to provide food in the form of barley, wine, cheese, flour, figs, quinces and other fruits. If the member failed repeatedly to provide rations he was expelled from the Syssitia and degraded to perioeci or hypomeion. It was easy to get rations: they came from the parcel of land (kleros) that each soldier was assigned, a plot of land that he almost never saw; worked by helots, and managed by his wife. Throughout all the state Sparta had 10,000 parcels of which about 6,000 were in the territories of conquered Messenia.

At age of twenty, therefore, after having entered these military Syssitias, young soldiers were incorporated in the Spartan phalanx. They would be part of it, if they survived, until their sixty years: gradually ascending the ladder of command, merit and experience. They would spend most of their lives committed to the Army, although their operational period would be ten years, between twenty and thirty. From thirty they were allowed to live at home with their wives and perform public tasks to become citizens and enter the Assembly. Until then, they lived in military barracks and made all their meals with their Syssitia fellows. When they had free time they supervised the instruction of the younger generation and tried to teach them useful things, encourage them for the fights to discover the capabilities of each child, and maybe even learn something from them occasionally. Other times they were given to the company of their elders to learn from them something useful, or to hear their stories and their reflections.

The Syssitias were very important institutions in Sparta, for when the men were not waging war, they were training for warring better. And if not, they socialized with their comrades in these “clubs.” Only as a fourth place were family relationships ranked. The Syssitias were presided over by a statue of the god of laughter, introduced by the same Lycurgus. There the Spartan developed his humor and his sharp and terse conversations. There, men of every age and condition mingled. It was impossible, thus, the emergence of the “generation gap” since all generations shared their experiences and concerns. There were no distinctions of wealth, only of valor itself, and the experience was taken into account when assessing a man. They were united by the fact of having passed the instruction, having had similar hardships, and being male Spartans. They were proud to be joining the phalanx alongside those who had amply demonstrated their toughness, bravery and righteousness. That was what made them brothers.

It was of immense importance that each Spartan contracted marriage and had many children, and in fact they imposed fines and penalties for late marriage and there was even a tax of bachelorhood. As for celibacy, it was a clear crime in Sparta, and it was not even conceived. They were occasions of groups of girls beating up wandering bachelor men of already certain age. Other witnesses recounted how in winter single males and females and even couples without children were stripped naked and forced to march through the city center singing a song about how fair it was their humiliation, because they had failed to fulfill the law.

Being single at a certain age—around twenty-five—was a disgrace comparable to cowardice in battle, since Spartan femininity was completely healthy, pure and trained to provide exemplary wives and proud mothers. These women were perfectly at the height of a Spartan. Under the natural viewpoint prevailed in Sparta, it was a crime that existing perfectly healthy girls a lad deprived the race of offspring. Plutarch tells a revealing anecdote about it. A famous and respected Spartan general called Dercyllidas came at a meeting and one of the young Spartans refused to relinquish his seat, as he should, “because you do not leave a child that would relinquish it [the seat] to me.” The young man was not reprimanded or punished, because he was right.

High rates of birth were favored through incentives and awards to large families, plus the releasing of communal pay of those who had more than four healthy children. This, along with the practical obligation to marry, was aimed at encouraging the multiplication of the race.

The same occurred in the Nazi SS, where we can see how they tried by all means to multiply the progeny. Like the Spartans, the SS favored the high birth rate among its members, punishing those who did not reproduce. Some single officers were even threatened with expulsion, and were given a year to get married. In other cases, when a fighter of the SS had lost all his brothers, he was often allowed a leave period to ensure a large family before returning to the front. The alleged reason was that the State was interested that his blood would not be lost for the future. This policy healed the previous genocide of countless chaste, good men in medieval Europe: particularly the members of military-religious orders such as the Templars. Both the Spartans and the SS were a sippenorden, i.e., a racial order or religious-military order: racial clans who wanted to be eternal on earth; materially eternalized through their children and their descendants.

We gather, in any case, that the Spartan population growth should not be as great as many imagine, because despite its abundant children many died in eugenic selection and childrearing, and others during the instruction or infectious diseases expected by natural selection.

With respect to the superfluous, the Spartan philosophy was: “If it is not essential, it is a hindrance.” Everything that was not necessary for survival was banished with disdain. The jewels, ornaments, extravagant designs, garish colors and other burdens and distractions, were excised from Sparta. The luxury and decor were nonexistent. To the Spartans it was strictly forbidden to trade with gold or silver, and the possession of it was severely punished, as well as the use as ornaments or jewelry.

The Spartan state itself refused to make coins of any kind. As tool for exchange of goods (that is, money), iron bars were used (Laconia had important iron mines). They were so big, ugly and heavy that few people wanted to accumulate them, hide them, or possess them (we could add also to count them, pet them and watch over them with curiosity as did the greedy with the beautiful gold coins). Moreover, the bars were not accepted outside of Sparta. Plutarch says, referring to the Spartan “currency” that “no one could buy with it foreign effects, nor it entered the trading ports, nor reached Laconia any wordy sophist, greeter or swindler, or man of bad traffic of women or artificer of gold and silver” (Life of Lycurgus, IX).

In short, it was not easy to fiddle with this money; nor deal, bribe, steal, smuggle or enter into contracts with foreigners; nor could vices appear such as gambling or prostitution. The greedy was exposed, as it needed a barn to store his entire fortune. And if someone happened to cut the handle bars and hide them, the manufacturers of these—when it was red-hot—dipped in vinegar, which made it lose ductility and could not be worked or molded.

I cannot resist noting that the use of iron as money in Sparta is archetypal and symbolic. While other states abandoned themselves in the gold, Sparta adopted the rough metal. While other, softer states often aimed at recreating the golden age in its nostalgic narcosis, Sparta adapted itself to the hard times of the Iron Age. Sparta, really, was a true daughter of the Iron Age: a jewel among ferments of decomposition of the autumn evening light. It was in Sparta where the understanding of a type of superior wisdom was kept: not the golden and regressed and senile wisdom, but the new wisdom of iron.

Thanks to all the measures of sobriety, coarseness and austerity, Sparta escaped the cosmopolitan, false soothsayers, jewelers, merchants, liars, drug dealers and other eastern specimens, who refused to go through a state where there was virtually no money; the little that existed was an unwanted burden to his owner, and its inhabitants were all proud, xenophobic and incorruptible soldiers.

Plutarch said that for the Spartans “money lacked interest or appreciation.” Both the contempt of material and fleeting pleasures like money itself points to an ascetic, anti-materialist and anti-hedonistic society. Nietzsche repeated, like other Eastern teachers: “Whoever has little is in no danger that he will be owned. Praise that simple poverty!” The Spartans were taught that civilization itself, with its luxuries, comforts, riches, its effeminacy, lust and complacency, was a dilutional factor: something countless times certificated by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, who admired the ascendant and uncontaminated world of the barbarians, of which the Spartans were the ultimate, more refined and perfected expression. Sparta did not have to be contaminated by this dangerous Eastern influence, first because it had the abundant labor of the helots and because, for racial reasons, it did not allow immigration and the slave trade. Sparta saw itself as the repository of ancient Greek, and especially, Dorian customs and thus they also saw the other people of Hellas—except Athens.

From age twenty-five Spartans were allowed to eat with their wives, occasionally. From age thirty (the age at which the growth hormone decays) Spartan discipline relaxed, especially on the “communal” aspects. The Spartan left, then, the military barracks and went to live in his home with his wife and children (though by now probably some of his sons would be suffering under state supervision and instruction). They joined the Assembly, a popular organism to be discussed later, performing any duty of the state, a responsibility assigned to him: like army commanders, harmost (military governors) among the perioeci, envoys from Sparta abroad, etc. They passed, then, to be citizens with all the rights and all the duties.

At sixty years old, if he came to that age and if he had the honor of being selected, the Spartan became part of the Senate. Being senator was for life. Spartan old age enjoyed immeasurable respect from the countrymen, who unconditionally revered their elders as repositories of wisdom and experience, and as a link connecting the past with the present, just as the youth is the bond that unites the present with the future. The Spartans revered the elders even if they were not Spartans. As an example of the latter we have a story that happened in the theater of Athens while some Spartan ambassadors were inside. An old man entered the theater and no Athenian rose to cede the seat, acting as if they didn’t know. However, upon arrival at their place of honor all the Spartan ambassadors rose in unison to cede the place. And then the Athenian audience applauded the noble gesture. “All Greeks know good manners,” said one of the ambassadors, “but only the Spartans behave in accordance with them” (Life of Lycurgus, IX).

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 6:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sparta – X

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“Man shall be trained for war, and woman for the recreation of the warrior: all else is folly.” —Nietzsche

 

Women and marriage

So far we have examined in detail the Spartan man. It is time to consider the woman and to direct our attention towards her. The Spartans were perhaps the clearest representation of women of honor in the Iron Age, raised under a system that brought out their best qualities. But is it a paradox that, under a resounding patriarchy, women might enjoy broad freedoms? Is it nonsense that in a military where women should have nothing to do, they had more rights than women in any other Greek state? The German ideologue Alfred Rosenberg wrote:

Sparta offered the example of a well disciplined state, and was devoid of any female influence. The kings and the ephors formed the absolute power, the essence of which was the maintenance and expansion of this power through the increase of the Dorian upper stratum with its disciplined outlook.

The Indo-Europeans were strongly patriarchal nations, whose most representative word was precisely “fatherland,” in Latin patria (father). In Germanic languages—German Vaterland and fatherland in English—the words mean “land of the fathers.” Sparta itself was patriarchal to the core, but as we shall see, the Spartans were not in any way unfair or oppressive to their wives. They enjoyed an impossible freedom in the effeminate societies where everything is focused on materialism and enjoyment of earthly, temporary pleasures, when the woman becomes an hetaerae: a passive object of enjoyment and distorted worship.

Sparta, a state so hard and so manly, was the fairest of Hellas in everything concerning their women, and not for mollycoddling, spoiling or flattering them. Sparta was the only Greek state which instituted a policy of female education, outside the knowledge of the home and children that every woman should own. Sparta was also the state with the highest literacy rate of all Hellas, because Spartan girls were taught to read like their brothers, unlike the rest of Greece where women were illiterate.

In the rest of Greece, sometimes, newborn girls (remember the myth of Atalanta), even if they were perfectly healthy (just like in China today) were exposed to death. Many parents almost considered a disgrace the birth of a girl, and finally all that was achieved was to produce an imbalance in the demographic distribution of the sexes.

But Sparta had more women than men, because their exposure of girls was not as severe; because girls did not pass the brutalities of male instruction, because they did not fall in battle, and because men were often on campaign. Spartans who felt at home should, therefore, always thought in terms of mothers, sisters, wives and daughters: the Homeland, the sacred ideal, had a female character; and protecting it amounted to protect their women. Men did not protect themselves: they were the remote shell of the heart, the sacred heart, and sacrificed themselves in honor of that heart. In Sparta more than anywhere else, females made up the inner circle, while males represented the protective outer wall.

Spartan girls received food in the same amount and quality of their brothers, which did not happen in the democratic states of Greece, where the best food pieces were for boys. Spartan girls were placed under an education system similar to the boys that favored their skills of strength, health, agility and toughness in outdoor classes, but trained by women. And they were not educated in that blind fanaticism inculcated to excel, sacrifice and desire—that feeling that among boys brushed the desire for self-destruction. For girls, on the other hand, the emphasis was put in the domain and control of emotions and feelings and the cultivation of the maternal instinct. It favored that youths of both sexes trained athletically together, as it was expected that the lads would encourage the fair sex to excel in physical exertion.

The hardness, severity and discipline of female education were, in any case, much lower than those of the Agoge, and there was much less emphasis on the domain of the suffering and pain as well as aggression. Punishment for Spartan girls was not even remotely as cruel as the punishment for boys, nor were torn out from their family homes at seven. After seeing the almost supernatural prowess that meant male instruction, the education of girls, despite being exemplary, is not impressive.

But why was all this about, apart from the fact that all men were active in the military and therefore needed more self-control and discipline? Simply put, the man is a ticking time bomb. In his insides it ferments and burns all kinds of energies and essences that, if not channeled, are negative when poured out as these forces come from the “dark side” which first inclination is chaos and destruction. The aggressiveness of man, his instinct to kill, his tendency to subdue others, his sexual boost, greatest strength, courage, power, will, strength and toughness, make that he has to be subjected to a special discipline that cultivates and channels those energies in order to achieve great things, especially when it comes to young healthy men with powerful, natural instincts—under penalty of which his spirits suffer a huge risk.

Asceticism itself (as sacrifice) is much more typical of man than woman. In fact, the Indo-European woman was never subjected to disciplinary systems as severe as those of the ancient armies. She was considered by the men of old as a more “magical” creature because she was not hindered by the roars of the beast within. For all these reasons, it was fair that the male education was more severe and rigorous than the female: that is how you train the beast. “It is better to educate men,” Nietzsche put in the words of a wise man who suggested disciplining women.

The main thing in the female formation was physical and a “socialist” education to devote their lives to their country—like men, only that in their case the duty was not shedding her blood on the battlefield, but to keep alive the home, providing a strong and healthy offspring to her race, and raise them with wisdom and care. Giving birth is the fruit of the female instinct that renews the race: that was the mission inculcated in the girls of Sparta.

Spartan women ran, boxed and wrestled in addition of using javelin and disc. They swam, did gymnastics and danced. Although they did participate in sport tournaments, women were barred from the Olympics because of the rejection of the other Hellenic peoples, infected with the mentality whereby a “lady” should rot within four walls. We see that, while Greek sculptures represent well the ideal of male beauty (think of the Discobolus by Myron), they did not in the least approach the ideal of Aryan female beauty: all women in female statues represented amorphous, not very natural, non-athletic bodies albeit with perfect facial features. If the Spartans had left sculptures of women, they would have represented better the ideal of beauty because they, unlike the other Greeks, had a clearly defined feminine ideal: it was clear what a woman had to be.

As for female austerity, it was pronounced (though not as much as the one that men practiced), especially compared with the behavior of the other Greek women, so fond of the colors, superficiality, decorations, objects, and with a hint of “consumerism” typical of civilized societies. Spartan women did not even know the extravagant hairstyles from the East and they wore, as a sign of their discipline, their hair up with simplicity: probably the most practical for a life of intense sports and activity. Also, all kinds of makeup, decorations, jewelry and perfumes were unknown and unnecessary for Spartan women, which proudly banished all that southern paraphernalia. Seneca said that “virtue does not need ornaments; it has in itself its highest ornaments.”

One purpose of raising healthy and agile women was that Spartan babies, growing within solid bodies, were born as promising products. According to Plutarch, Lycurgus “made the maidens exercise their bodies in running, wrestling, casting the discus, and hurling the javelin, in order that the fruit of their wombs might have vigorous root in vigorous bodies and come to better maturity, and that they themselves might come with vigour to the fullness of their times, and struggle successfully and easily with the pangs of child-birth” (Life of Lycurgus, XIV).

Spartan women were prepared, since childhood, to childbirth and to the stage where they would be mothers, teaching them the right way to raise the little one to become a true Spartan. During this training, the Spartan women were often babysitters, acquiring experience for times when they would receive the initiation of motherhood. They married from age twenty, and did not marry men who surpassed them greatly in age (as in the rest of Greece), but with men their age or five years older or younger at most. Age difference within the members of a marriage was poorly viewed, as it sabotaged the duration of the couple’s fertile phase. The aberration of marrying girls of fifteen with men of thirty was not even remotely allowed, an aberration that did happen in other Hellenic states where parents came to force unions whose age difference was of a generation.

Nor was allowed in Sparta another abomination, which consisted of marring girls with their own uncles or cousins to keep inherited wealth within the family: an altogether oriental, anti-Indo-European and unnatural mentality. Other practices, such as prostitution or rape, were not even conceived. Or adultery. One Geradas, a Spartan of very ancient type, who, on being asked by a stranger what the punishment for adulterers was among them, answered: “Stranger, there is no adulterer among us.” “Suppose, then,” replied the stranger, “there should be one.” “A bull,” said Geradas, “would be his forfeit, a bull so large that it could stretch over Mount Taygetus and drink from the river Eurotas.” Then the stranger was astonished and said: “But how could there be a bull so large?” To which Geradas replied, with a smile: “But how could there be an adulterer in Sparta?”

Such, then, are the accounts we find of their marriages.

In other Greek states, male nudity was common in religious and sport activities, and this was a sign of their arrogance and pride. Female nudity, however, was banned as the very presence of women in such acts. But in the processions, religious ceremonies, parties and sport activities of Sparta, girls were as naked as the young. Every year during the Gymnopaedia, which lasted ten days, the Spartan youth of both sexes competed in sports tournaments and danced naked. (This was another suggestion of Plato in his Republic as well as one of the observations made by Caesar on the Germans.) It was felt that, attending sporting events, the young Spartan would be able to select a well-built husband.

Today nudist activities of this type would be ridiculous because people’s nudity is shameful; modern bodies are flabby and lack normal forms. The modern individual tends to see an athletic body as an outstanding body, when an athletic body is a normal and natural body; it is the rest, non-exercised types which are not normal. Recall Nietzsche’s reflection: “A naked man is generally regarded as a shameful spectacle.” However, at that time, witnessing such a display of health, agility, strength, beauty, muscle and good constitutions should inspire genuine respect and pride of race. The Hellenes of the democratic states argued at the time that the presence of female nudity could cause leering looks, but the fact is that the Spartans took it all with ease and pagan nonchalance. Moreover, young Spartan women that identified an awestruck voyeur used a clever string of jokes that made him a fool in front of the entire stadium, full of solemn authorities and attentive people.

In some ceremonies, the girls sang about boys who had done great deeds, or dishonored that had led to bad. They were, in some way, the demanding voice of the Spartan collective unconscious, which ensures the courage and conduct of men. Not only in the songs appeared the pouring of their opinions, but in public life: they did not overlook a single one; they were not gentle, but were always criticizing or praising the brave and coward. For men of honor, opinions on the value and manhood were more important if they came from female voices worthy of respect: the criticisms were sharper and praises more restorative. According to Plutarch, the Spartan woman “engendered in young people a laudable ambition and emulation.” That is why relationships with women not softened them, but hardened them even more, as they preferred to be brave and conquer their worship.

And what was the result of the patriarchal education on the young girls? It was a caste of women on the verge of perfection: severe, discreet and proud. Spartan femininity took the appearance of young athletic, happy and free, yet serious and somber. They were, as the Valkyries, perfect companion of the warriors. Trophy-women insofar as they aspired for the best man, but physically active and bold; very far, then, from the ideal of “woman-object.”

In all Hellas, Spartan women were known for their great beauty and respected for their serenity and maturity. The poet Alcman of Sparta (7th century BCE) dedicated a poem to a woman champion competing in chariot races, praising her for her “golden hair and silver face.” Two centuries later, another poet, Bacchylides, wrote about the “blonde Lacedaemonian,” describing her “golden hair.” Given that the dyes in Sparta were banned, we can deduce that racism and the Apartheid instinct of the Spartans with respect to aboriginal Greeks was strong enough so that, no more and no less than seven centuries after the Dorian invasion, blond hair still predominated among the citizenry of the country.

In a comedy called Lysistrata, written by the Athenian playwright Aristophanes (444-385 BCE), there is a scene where a crowd of admiring Athenian women surround a young Spartan named Lampito. “What a splendid creature!” they said. “What a skin, so healthy, what a body, so firm!” Another added: “I’ve never a chest like that.” Homer called Sparta Kalligynaika, meaning “land of beautiful women.” On the other hand, do not forget that the legendary Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world, was originally Helen of Sparta: an ideal that was stolen by the East and that not only Sparta, but the whole Greece recovered through fighting and conquest.[1]

Spartan women were superior in all respects to the other women of their time and, of course, today’s women. Even in physical virtues, courage and toughness they would outstrip most modern men. Their severity was the best company to their husbands and the best raising for their children, and she demanded the greatest sacrifices. An anecdote recounts how a Spartan mother killed his own son when she saw he was the sole survivor of the battle and that returned home with a back injury, that is, he had fled rather than fulfill his sacred duty: immolation. Another Spartan mother, seeing her son fled the combat, lifted her robe and asked in the most merciless crudeness if his intention was to, terrified, return from where he came. While other mothers would have said “poor thing!” and stretched their arms open, Spartan mothers did not forgive.

Tacitus wrote that the mothers and wives of the Germans (whose mentality was not too different from the Spartan) used to count the scars of their warriors, and that they even required them to return with wounds to show their readiness of sacrifice for them. The Spartans believed that in their wives lived a divine gift, and it was not to be the women who would convince them otherwise, so these women sought to maintain the high standard of the devotion their men professed.

Furthermore, women were convinced that in their men lived the nobility, courage, honesty, power and righteousness typically of the male, along with the notion of duty, honor and the willingness to sacrifice; and men also sought to keep up with such an ideal. Again, we find that the ancient woman did not soften the man, but helped to improve and perfect him because the man felt the need to maintain the integrity before such women; so women remained alert and they did the same with them, having in their minds that they themselves were ideals for which their men were willing to sacrifice themselves. Thus, a virtuous circle was created. The woman was a motif not to give up the fight, but precisely a reason to fight with even more fanaticism.

Other Greeks were outraged because the Spartan women were not afraid to speak in public; because they had opinions and, what is more, their husbands listened. (The same indignation the Romans experienced about the greater freedom of Germanic women.) Moreover, since their men were in constant military camp life, Spartan women, like the Vikings, were responsible for the farm and home. They managed the home resources, economy and self-sufficiency of the family, so that the Spartans relied on their wives to provide the stipulated food rations for their Syssitias. Spartan women (again, like Germanic women) could inherit property and pass it, unlike the other Greek women. All this female domestic administration was, as we see, similar in Germanic law, where women boasted the home-key as a sign of sovereignty over the holy and impregnable family house, and of faithfulness to the breadwinner. Home is the smallest temple that may have the smallest unit of blood, the cell on which the whole race is based: the family. And the bearer of the key had to be forcibly the mother.

A society at war is doomed if the home, if the female rear, is not with the male vanguard. All the sacrifices of the warriors are just a glorious waste, aimless and meaningless if in the country no women are willing to keep the home running, providing support and spiritual encouragement to the men in the field and, ultimately, giving birth to new warriors. A soldier far from home, without country, ideal and a feminine image of reference—a model of perfection, an axis of divinity—immediately degenerates into a villain without honor. Conversely, if he is able to internalize an inner mystique and a feminine symbolism that balances the brutality he witness day after day, his spirit will be strengthened and his character ennoble. Sparta had no problems in this regard; Spartan women were the perfect counterpart of a good warrior.

Even marriage was tinged with violence. During the ceremony, the man, armed and naked, grabbed her arm firmly and brought the girl “by force” as she lowered her head. (According to Nietzsche, “The distinctive character of a man is will; and in a woman, submission.” In Spartan marriage this was truer than anywhere else.) This should not be interpreted in a literal sense of rapture, but in a metaphorical sense and ritual: a staging of Indo-European mythologies are numerous with references of robbery, kidnapping—and the subsequent liberation—of something holy that is necessary to win, earn the right to own it. The fire from the gods, the golden fleece, the apples of the Hesperides, the grail of Celtic and Germanic traditions and the sleeping Valkyrie are examples of such sacred images. Cherished ideals not to be delivered free but conquered by force and courage after overcoming difficult obstacles, and thus ensured that only the most courageous were able to snatch it and own it, while the weak and timid were disqualified in the fight.

On the other hand, can we not find a similarity between the Spartan marriage ritual and the Indo-Iranian sveyamvara marriage by abduction allowed to warriors, and in the case of the Sabine abducted by Latins in the origins of Rome, and the same type of marriage allowed to the old Cossacks? In the Indo-Aryan writing, the Mahabharata, we read how the hero Arjuna abducted Subhadra “as do the warriors,” marrying her. Again, it was not a literal rapture but rather the conquest of the sacred through respect and strength what rendered the sacred fall before the hero.

In Spartan marriage, then, we see how the Spartan woman was elevated to the status of a divine ideal and not given by her parents to a man chosen by them (as in other rituals of marriage, which makes the bride an object of barter), but the brave man had to earn her. In fact, in Sparta it was not allowed that parents had anything to do with the marital affairs of their offspring; it was the couple that decided their marriage, allowing that preferences and the healthy instincts of the youths would be unhindered—making it clear that to possess a woman of the category of the Spartan it was not enough wealth, parental consent, marriage arrangements, dialectics, seduction or false words. It was necessary to make an overwhelming impression; be robust and noble and genetically worthy.

Also, the Spartan marriage ceremony—dark and almost sinister in its direct crudeness—is the height of the patriarchal warrior society, and one of the most eloquent expressions of patriarchy that governed in Sparta. Lycurgus sought to establish military paranoia and a perpetual environment of war even in marriage. Just as children had to procure their food by hunting and gathering and rapine and pretending to be in the enemy zone, an adult man should also win his chosen one by pretending to be into fringe, hostile territory—“abducting her” in remembrance of a hard and dangerous time that was not kind for romance and lovers. This again made evident how little parents were involved in a plot like this: in ancient times, if they refused to consent to the marriage, the young man performed a daring raid and, with the complicity of his fiancée, “abducted her.”

With the Spartan marriage system it was also subtly implied that, as Nature teaches, not everyone was entitled to a female. To be eligible for this right it was necessary for a man to pass a test: eugenics, child rearing, education, entry into the Army Syssitias and the mutual fidelity of a young female belonging to the same call-up year, which in turn he gained through observation and knowledge at sporting events, popular and religious, and a long loving friendship whose latent purpose should remain hidden from the rest of society. Throughout all these phases the man conquered his beloved girl. The unconquered woman had to prove nothing. She chose her fiancé and had the say as to accept her future husband. Ultimately, it was she who willingly indulged in complicity, leaving herself to be ritually “kidnapped” by the man of her choice.

After the ritual, the bride was taken to the house of her in-laws. There they shaved her head and made her wore clothing like a man. Then she was left in a dark room, waiting for the arrival of the groom. All this is extremely difficult to understand for a modern Western mind and it is not from this point of view we should try to understand it, but putting us at the time and bearing in mind that both Spartan man and woman belonged to an Order.

This last—totally sordid—phase served to impress upon the newlyweds the notion that the secrecy and discretion of their relationship was not over, and that they had not yet earned the right to enjoy a normal marriage. For the woman it implied initiation, sacrifice and a new stage. She was stripped from her seduction skills and her awareness of being attractive. For the man, it was beneficial to make him appreciate what really mattered of his wife: not clothes, hair or ornaments but her body; her face and character.

Consuming an act in these gloomy conditions and absolutely hostile to romance and sexual arousal was for both the man and the woman the least imaginable stimulating, so that gradually they became accustomed to the physical sensations arising from the sexual act, but without the additional psychological stimuli such as a more feminine look in the woman and a gentler environment—stimuli that tend to boycott male stamina, moving him to abandon himself to pleasure and rest on his laurels. Therefore, this staging was not much inspiring sexually in short term, but instead was very stimulating in long-term in a subtle way: slowly, it was blown into the hearts of the lovers the longing for that which was not still allowed.

So, by the time a woman had re-grown abundant hair, and the pseudo-clandestineness of the relationship was dissipated over time, both male and female were well experienced adults who knew what they wanted and, despite it, had not suffered any loss in sexual desire but rather were more than ever prepared to appreciate and enjoy what meant a free physical relationship.

Lycurgus established that a man should be ashamed to be seen with his wife in loving attitudes so that the meeting took place in private and with greater intimacy and passion, and that the surrounding secrecy and hostility favored the magic of the union: the feeling of complicity and the true romance, which always has to have some secrets. (Plato said that holding hands and fondling should be the maximum carnal love shown in public.) The objective of this measure, too, was to promote mutual thirst for true knowledge, fascination, mystery, magic: the sacred short-circuit between man and woman, and—let’s say it—the curiosity of the forbidden, so that their relationship had no public at all, but a private matter, and to encourage that a man and a woman would not get tired of one another. The Spartan couple should have, then, a powerful sexuality that oozed from healthy bodies and pure spirits, resulting in a clean eroticism and a positive lust necessary for the preservation of the race. In the words of Xenophon:

He [Lycurgus] noticed, too, that, during the time immediately succeeding marriage, it was usual elsewhere for the husband to have unlimited intercourse with his wife. The rule that he adopted was the opposite of this: for he laid it down that the husband should be ashamed to be seen entering his wife’s room or leaving it. With this restriction on intercourse the desire of the one for the other must necessarily be increased, and their offspring was bound to be more vigorous than if they were surfeited with one another [Constitution of the Lacedaemonians, 1].

How, then, did the Spartans manage to be with their wives? In the Syssitias, a man stood quietly and left the room, ensuring that nobody saw him (at night it was forbidden to walk with a lighting of any kind, to promote the ability to move in the dark without fear and safely). He entered his home, where he found his wife and where happened what had to happen. The man then returned to the Syssitia with his comrades in arms, wrapped in a secrecy that almost touched the squalor. Nobody noticed anything. The sexuality of the couple was strictly private, even furtive and pseudo-clandestine so that no person would interfere with it and make the relationship stronger and, to quote again Plutarch, that their minds were always “recent in love, to leave in both the flame of desire and complacency.”

Were Spartan relations normal, natural or desirable? No. Quite the opposite. They created a most unpleasant weather, far from corresponding to some sort of “ideal.” No sane person would want such a relationship as a way of seeking pleasure. For the Spartans, however, as a result of their peculiar idiosyncrasies, it “worked.” And yet, we see that boredom, repetition, lack of curiosity and monotony, the real demons in modern couples (and not an infrequent cause of dissatisfaction, infidelity, breakups or perversions that emerge when breaking the routine) were uncommon in Spartan marriages.

Spartan privacy and discretion were, in fact, the opposite of the relations of our days: pure appearance and social desirability with a public, not private basis. Spartans understood this important issue and lived in conformity with it. They favored the meeting of men and women in popular events, but they kept loving relationships strictly private. (Millennia later, the SS also understood it, and on their tables of values they firmly stamped: “Maintain the mysterious appearance of love!”) The strength of their love came from themselves, unlike the infantile current relationships whose fuel is the external world outside the couple, without which the couple is empty and cannot function.

Spartan Romanticism was the epitome of love in the Iron Age: love in a hostile area and in difficult times. Marriage relationships were designed for the exchange to be beneficial. Today, the marriage almost invariably castrates man, making him fat, cowardly, lazy, and turning the woman into a manipulative, hedonistic, whimsical and poisonous individual.

On the other hand, there was another controversial Spartan measure that had to do with the need to procreate. If a man began to grow old and knew a young man whose qualities admired, he could present him to his wife to beget robust offspring. The woman could cohabit with another man who accepted her, if he was of greater genetic value than her husband (i.e., if he was a better man). This was not considered adultery but a service to the race. Also, if a woman was barren or began to decline biologically, the husband was entitled to take a fertile woman who loved him, and he was not considered an adulterer. In Viking society (the kind of society that came from the ancient Dorians) if a woman was unfaithful with a man manifestly better than her husband, it was not considered adultery.

The above may seem sordid and primitive; it may seem an annulment of the individual or of the order, and “reduce a man to the status of cattle,” but with the strong desire of offspring in Sparta they cared little about selfish or individual desires. To the forces of Nature and race personal whims are unimportant; what matters is that the offspring are healthy and robust, and that the torrent of children is never extinguished. These peculiar measures, that in an undisciplined people would have provoked chaos, in the Spartans, used to discretion and order, did not cause any problems. On the other hand, we must avoid falling into the trap of thinking that all couples “got laid.” In the majority of cases both partners were healthy and fertile and did not need of any “assistance.”

What was considered the birth in Sparta in the context of this natural mindset? A good way to explain it is quoting an Italian Fascist slogan, “War is to the male what childbearing is to the female.” The duty of man was sacrificing his strength from day to day and shed his blood on the battlefield, and women’s to struggle to give birth and raise healthy children. Since their childhood that was the sacred duty they had been taught.

In this environment, a Spartan woman who refused to give birth would have been as unpopular as a Spartan man who refused to fight, for the woman who refuses to give birth sabotaged the sacrifice of the young warrior just as the man who refuses to defend home sabotaged the efforts of the young mother who gives birth. It would have been more than a sacrilege: a betrayal. Artemis, the most revered female deity in Sparta, was, among other things, the goddess of childbirth, and was invoked when the young women were giving birth. In any case, labor for Spartan women should not have been traumatic, first because since their childhood their bodies were hardened and they exercised the muscles that would help them give birth; secondly because they conceived their children while they were still young and strong, and thirdly because they gave birth under a happy and proud motivation of duty, aided by a knowledge and a natural medicine confirmed by many generations of mothers and Spartan nurses.

The great freedom of women in Sparta did not imply that women were handed over leadership or positions of power. The woman was not the driving, but the inspiring, generating and conservative force. She did not dominate but subtly influenced, strangely reaffirming the character of men. A woman could be a priestess or a queen, but not meddled in the affairs of political and warrior leadership, because that meant taking a role associated with the masculine side. The woman was a pure ideal that must at all costs be kept away from the dirty side of politics and war command, but always present in society and in the thought of the warrior, because that was where resided her mysterious power. It was in the mind of men where the woman became a conductive force, meaning memory-love (in terms of Minni) and inspiration.

To Gorgo, queen of Sparta, wife of king Leonidas, a foreign woman once said that only Spartan women kept any real influence over men, and the queen answered, “because we are the only ones who give birth to real men.” Again, they had influence over men, but not power. In ancient Scandinavian meetings, as an example of the value of the feminine influence, only married men were allowed to vote. The man was the one who made the decisions, but it was assumed that he was not complete until he had at his side a complementary, feminine spirit, a Woman who could transmit certain magic everyday, and inspired him with her reflections and only then he was allowed to vote. In practice, every marriage was a single vote. On the other hand, in the other Hellenic states the female presence was banished, thus unbalancing the mentality and behavior of the warrior, and finally facilitating the emergence of pederast homosexuality. The whole issue of Spartan femininity was really inconceivable in the rest of Greece.

peplodorio

The Athenians called the Spartan women fainomérides (“those that show the thighs”) as a reproach of their freedom of dress. This was because the Spartans were still using the old Dorian peplos, which was open in the waist side. It was part of a women’s fashion, more comfortable and lighter than the female clothing in the rest of Greece: where fashions flourished of extravagant hairstyles, makeup, jewelry or perfumes. It was a fashion for healthy Spartan women. But the rest of Hellas, as far as women are concerned, was already infected with Eastern customs: which kept them permanently locked up at home; where their bodies weakened and sick minds developed. The Athenian poet Euripides (480-406 BCE) was shocked at the fact that the “daughters of the Spartans… leave home” and “mingle with men showing her thighs.”



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(*) The very image of Helen of Sparta has to be purified. Far from the common vision that Hollywood has shown us, her spirit became disordered by the outburst of Aphrodite. Helen, the highest ideal of Hellenic beauty and femininity, was kidnapped by the East, hence the remarkable swat of the Greeks. Upon her arrival in Troy, Helen recovered memory, recalled she was the queen of Sparta, was married to King Menelaus, and they had two daughters; and bitterly regretted and wept for her mistake.

Helen cursed her luck and Aphrodite by her deception, she considered herself captive despite being treated like a princess, and despised her “husband” Paris (as is evident when she contemptuously rejects him after having behaved like a coward before Menelaus, for whom she reserved her admiration). Lamenting her fate, she wished to be recovered by her lawful husband, as attested by the scene where she has her window in form of open arms as to communicate the permanence of her love. Once she was recovered for Greece, Helen returned to the Spartan throne with honors, serving as queen again, as seen in the Odyssey when Telemachus, son of Odysseus, goes to Sparta to inquire about the fate of his father. It is then that Penelope, wife of Odysseus and mother of Telemachus, laments that her son goes to Sparta, “the land of beautiful women.”

(For the other half of this book on Sparta
click on “Older entries” below:)

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 6:07 pm  Comments (5)