Sparta – XI

sparta


The government

“Now once it had struck me that Sparta, despite having one of the lowest populations, had nonetheless clearly become the most powerful and most famous in Greece, I wondered how this had ever happened. But I stopped wondering once I had pondered the Spartiate institutions, for they have achieved success by obeying the laws laid down for them by Lycurgus.” —Xenophon, Constitution of the Lacedaemonians

The Spartan power was not a cold bureaucratic machine in the dark about passions and impulses. It was a spiritual being that had taken root in the soul of every Spartan that was alive and had a will. Spartan leaders measured their quality in that they were able to be worthy of being receptacles and transmitters of such will, which was precisely the aim of their training and their discipline: to become the tools by which the Spartan state, intangible but irresistible, materialized on Earth and expressed its will.

The whole organization of Sparta was such a unique and exemplary power that it deserves that we focus now on its various separate political institutions, after having addressed nurture, education, the military and marriage, which were themselves institutions.

A) The dyarchy. The Spartan government was headed by two kings who ruled together. Being heads of the political, military and religious power, they carried out the jobs of chief priests and leaders of the Army. This curious sign of two-headed power came out not only because this way a king controlled the authority of the other, but as a symbolic stroke (remember Romulus and Remus) of the ancient, mythical kings.

In the case of Sparta, both kings were symbolically related in religious worship with the mythical twins Castor and Pollux, supernatural giants endowed with overdeveloped senses; sons of Zeus and members of the männerbund of the Argonauts that, mythologically, were the first monarchs of the country.

Each king chose two representatives to the oracle of Delphi. In wartime, only one of the kings was with the army, while the other remained to rule in the city. The belligerent king was obliged to be the first to go to war and the last to return. In combat, he also stood in the place of greatest risk—in the first row on the far right of the phalanx. (In the first row of the phalanx, composed exclusively of officers, the shields formed a wall. As the shields were wielded with the left arm and the weapons with the right, the shield protected the wearer’s left side and the right of the adjacent comrade. It was a great symbol of fellowship, for the protection of the right side depended on the adjacent comrade. However, the warrior who was on the extreme right of the shield lacked a partner to protect his right side, so he should be especially bold: it was the royal post.)

It was tradition that the king and the commanders who made war surround themselves with an elite guard of 300 selected men, the Hippeis. It is said that a Spartan aspired to this body and, inexplicably, was glad when he was informed that he had not been admitted. A foreigner, unaccustomed to the Spartan ways, asked why he rejoiced and the Spartan answered, with the utmost sincerity, that he was glad that his country was well protected if you had three hundred men better than himself.

In the elite guard there always was at least one Spartan that had been crowned victor in the Olympic games, and certainly there was no lack of champions in Sparta, as in the various Olympic games from 720 BCE to 576 BCE of eighty-one known winners, forty-six—more than half—were Spartans; and of thirty-six winners of foot races, twenty-one were Spartans. And Sparta was the least populous state in Greece and its men were not “professional” athletes specializing in a particular discipline, but full-time soldiers for which overall athleticism was a mere hobby. There was a Spartan wrestler who someone attempted to bribe to lose in a competition during the Olympic games. Having refused the bribe and winning the fight, he was asked: “Spartan, what good has earned your victory?” He responded with a smile from ear to ear: “I will fight against the enemy next to my king.” The victors in the Olympic games were regarded as touched by the gods.

The first kings of Sparta were the twin sons of King Aristodemus; henceforth, every king came from an ancient and legendary Spartan family, that of Eurysthenes and Procles, both claiming descent from Heracles, although Eurysthenes was more revered by virtue of his greater antiquity.

Strange as it might seem, in all Hellas Spartan monarchy was regarded as the oldest in the world: a very remote descendant of a line going back to the very gods and the ancient, “among the snow” hyperborean homeland of the distant ancestors of the Hellenes.

The princes were not educated in the standard Agoge like the other Spartan children. Their education strongly emphasized military skill and strategy, but added the notions of diplomacy and political thought. In addition, the princes were allowed to double food rations of the rest of the people.

In short, the monarchy of Sparta had a mystical and sacred character that permeated their subjects and inspired self-improvement. The kings were regarded as the embodiment of all that Spartan people had as divine.

B) The Ephorate. Under the kings—although in practice even more powerful—was a five ephoroi cabinet (ephors, or “guards”) called Ephorate. Originally they were the high priests of each of the five villages, districts or military garrisons that formed the archaic Sparta, but their power gradually escalated once Lycurgus disappeared; they somehow became to replace him.

The Ephorate was the most powerful institution of Sparta. It ran eugenics, parenting, education, the military and foreign policy, and also had the power to veto any decision from the Senate or the Assembly. They served as supreme judges and presided the diplomatic meetings and assemblies. Two ephors always accompanied the king in season, and had the power to call the kings to their presence in order to seek explanations for their behavior if they acted wrong. They even had the power to arrest or depose them if necessary if an offence was committed, but they needed divine authorization through an oracle. The ephors, who were elderly veterans selected for their prestige and wisdom, did not even stood up in the presence of kings, and it could be said they were their “overseers,” ensuring that no king was asleep in the laurels or fell into tyranny.

C) The senate. Under the ephors was the Gerousia, the senate or council of thirty lifetime gerontes, including the two kings and twenty-eight other citizens who have passed the age of sixty, selected among the volunteers from prestigious and old Spartan families. The Spartan senate tradition came from the thirty military chiefs who swore allegiance to Lycurgus during his coup.

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D) The assembly. Called Apella or Ecclesia, this assembly was a popular body that included all Spartan males over thirty years, who elected the members of the Senate and the Ephorate. Sometimes they could approve or veto the decisions of the Senate, although they had no right to question the decisions of the ephors.

E) On the elections. It has been mentioned the existence of elections to choose leaders. These elections had nothing to do with the current elections, where the fashionable whim of a sheepish majority imposes an anonymous, and therefore cowardly vote lacking responsibility and maturity. In Sparta the ratings were made by acclamation: the candidate who received the most overwhelming cheers and the most tumultuous applause triumphed. (Schiller wrote: “the votes should be weighed, not counted.”) Contrary to what it may seem, this method is smarter than the incumbent democratic, insofar as it empowered the candidate who always had the loyalty of the citizens, or at least its most determined mass, which is what matters.

Do not forget that this citizenship had nothing of a mob since it was made up only of the Spartan males of more than thirty years whose loyalty, righteousness and strength were more than proven over twenty-three years of enormous sacrifices and privations. In case of doubt, they resorted to a simple method: supporters stood to one side, and the other to the other side. So the vote was direct and those responsible could be called into account, in case of wrong decision.

F) Nomocracy: the kings obeying the law. All these institutions and methods were certainly unique arrangements. Plato, speaking about the Spartan power said:

Megillus: And yet, Stranger, I perceive that I cannot say, without more thought, what I should call the government of Lacedaemon, for it seems to me to be like a tyranny—the power of our Ephors is marvelously tyrannical; and sometimes it appears to me to be of all cities the most democratical; and who can reasonably deny that it is an aristocracy? We have also a monarchy which is held for life, and is said by all mankind, and not by ourselves only, to be the most ancient of all monarchies; and, therefore, when asked on a sudden, I cannot precisely say which form of government the Spartan is [Laws, IV, 712].

The Spartans, however, didn’t split hairs and called their form of government Eunomia, that is, good order. They also called their system Cosmos as it was everything they knew: it was the world in which they moved and was unique with respect to all other systems.

King Archidamus II of Sparta, the son of king Zeuxidamus, when asked who was in charge of Sparta, responded: “The laws, and the judges according to the laws.” But these laws were not written down at all, but in the blood and the scars of the children of Sparta. They dwelt within men after a long process of training and internalization that made them suitable depositories. They were not girded dogmas blinded to the exceptions, but were perfectly flexible and adaptable to various cases. The kings voluntarily submitted to the laws, as they were considered a gift that the gods themselves had done to Sparta through the Lycurgus mediation.

In conclusion, in Sparta Lycurgus’ laws governed, a sort of nomocracy (as formerly in Brahmanic India or as Judaism to this day), so they made sure that Lycurgus in Sparta continued to rule even centuries after his death.

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 6:05 pm  Comments (1)  

Sparta – XII

sparta


The Spartan religious feeling

“And in Lacedaemon and Crete not only men but also women have a pride in their high cultivation. And hereby you may know that I am right in attributing to the Lacedaemonians [Lacedaemonia was the name borne by the city of Sparta from Late Antiquity to the 19th century] this excellence in philosophy and speculation: If a man converses with the most ordinary Lacedaemonian, he will find him seldom good for much in general conversation, but at any point in the discourse he will be darting out some notable saying, terse and full of meaning, with unerring aim; and the person with whom he is talking seems to be like a child in his hands.”

—Plato, Protagoras



Religion in Sparta played a major role, far above any other Greek state. Spartan supremacy was not only physical, but spiritual. This apparent contradiction is explained by the Hellenic religion, drinking directly from the original Indo-European religion: a religion of the strong—not a religion of self-pity and worship of the sick, the weak, the downtrodden and unhappy. In Sparta, also, that religion had been placed at the service of a shield specifically designed to withstand the rigors of the Iron Age.

Hellenic polytheism was something deeply natural and vital, and is inextricably woven to the memory of the blood, as “divinity consists precisely in that there are Gods and not one god.” Our ancestors made of their gods spiritual monuments containing all those qualities peculiar to them that had made them thrive and succeed. They deposited in them higher feelings with which they gave way and perfected together a being who existed before in fuzzy and dormant state. The creation of gods is something capital when valuing a people, for the gods are the personification of the highest ideals and values of that people. One can say that the gods created the race, and the race their gods. Through the gods we can know the people who worshiped them, the same way that through the people—ourselves, our ancestors, our history and our brothers—we meet the gods.

The peoples had their gods and the gods had their villages. Sparta worshiped typical Hellenic deities, although two among them acquired singularly relevant and important roles and became the most worshiped deities, even by the time of the Dorian invasion: Apollo and Artemis. They were twin brothers, reconfirming the cult of “sacred twins.” Their father was Zeus, the heavenly father; and their mother was Leto, daughter of Titans, who to escape the jealousy of Hera (Zeus’ heavenly wife) had to become a she-wolf and run away to the country of the hyperboreans. Note here the presence of an important symbolic constant, the heavenly principle (Zeus, eagle, lightning) together with the earthly principle (Leto, wolf, titan).

Apollo was the son of Zeus and brother of Artemis, god of beauty, of poetry (he was called “blond archpoet”), music, bow and arrow, youth, the sun, the day; of manhood, light and pride. He could predict the future and each year returned from Hyperborea in a chariot drawn by swans. (As Lohengrin, the king of the Grail, with his boat, and like other medieval myths about the “Swan Knight” as Helias—obviously a version of the Roman Helios in France.) Apollo presided over the chorus of the nine muses, deities that inspired artists, and lived on Mount Helicon. He was conceived as a young, blond and blue-eyed man, holding a lyre, harp or bow, and possessor of a manly, clean, youthful and pure beauty—“Apollonian” beauty. The mythology explained that in his childhood he killed the serpent Python (in other versions a dragon), setting in its place, with the help of the hyperboreans, the sanctuary of Delphi.

Heracles also killed a snake when he was a newborn. Such legends represent the struggle that initially led the Indo-European invaders against the telluric gods of the pre-Indo-European peoples. Apollo received several titles including Phoebus (“radiant”), Aegletes (“light of the sun”) and Lyceus (“born of wolf,” as in some way were Romulus and Remus). As equivalents gods of Apollo in other peoples we have Apollo Phoebus (Roman), Abellio or Belenus (Celtic ), Baldur (German), Byelobog (Slavs), Lucifer (medieval heretics), Baal (Phoenician), the Beelzebub demonized by the Church and Belial: another demon of Christianity.

Apollo was worshiped in the most important festival of Sparta, the Carnea. There they paid homage to the under-god in the figure of the ram. To carry out the rituals the priests chose five unmarried men who for four years should continue a vow of chastity.

Artemis was the sister of Apollo, daughter of Zeus, goddess of night, moon, bow and arrow; of forests, hunting and virginity, but also of labor and male fertility. Artemis was usually depicted armed with bow and silver arrows, wearing a short and light tunic or skins of wild animals, carrying her hair up and accompanied by a pack of hunting dogs. Her car was pulled by deer, the animal most associated with her, and in fact she is sometimes depicted with horns of deer, reminiscent of the most primitive paganism. She was chaste and virgin in perpetuity, and virgin were her priestesses, Melissa (“bees,” another symbol of Artemis). She was harsh, stern, proud, sharp, wild, silent and cold: the result of a patriarchal work, the only model of female divinity able to command respect and devotion to such an ascetic and leathery virility as the Spartan.

The Dorian Artemis equaled the Celtic Artio, the Roman Diana, and the Slavic Dievana; but she had nothing to do with the Artemis worshiped by eunuch priests in the temple of Ephesus (Asia Minor, now modern Turkey): a goddess of “fertility” often depicted with black skin, multiple breasts, whimsical hairstyles, a body adornment and other oriental distortions. (Dievana was conceived by the ancient Slavs as a virgin goddess associated with hunting and the moon. For the Poles, she was a young virgin who hunted in the forests. South Slavs imagined her running through the forests of the Carpathians, and other Slavic peoples imagined her accompanied by bears or a pack of dogs. All these configurations correspond clearly to the Greek Artemis or Roman Diana.) In Greek mythology Artemis was a mentor to the young Atalanta, who became the best runner of Hellas, and no one, not even a god, was closer to conquer her than the mortal hero Orion. Apollo and Artemis were, finally, the sacred twin couple; day and night, sun and moon, gold and silver. They were the juvenile archetypes of Spartan masculinity and femininity, respectively.

Sparta venerated the heroes of the Iliad, especially Achilles, but also Menelaus and Helen, kings of Sparta in Homer’s mythology. Heracles was practically a Spartan national hero (remember that, according to tradition, he was the patriarch that founded the royal lineages of Sparta), and his figure was hugely popular among young men.

The city of Sparta had forty-three temples dedicated to various gods and twenty-two temples dedicated to the heroes (including those of the Iliad), whose deeds inspired the flourishing generations; more than fifteen statues of gods, four altars and numerous funerary tombs. There was also a temple dedicated to Lycurgus, worshiped as a god. In a city the size of Sparta, the number of religious buildings was very noticeable.

In religious ceremonies, men and women—particularly those in age of dating—attended, entirely naked as they did during the processions, the tournaments, the beauty contests and the dances. This already implies that the Spartans were not ashamed of their bodies, but that proudly displayed them whenever they could because they were robust, well-formed and harmonious. These events were festivals of beauty, Dionysian ceremonies in which the body was worshiped and beautified by effort and sacrifice. According to Plato, a beautiful body promises a beautiful soul and “beauty is the splendor of truth.”

The athletic custom of shaving the body hair and smear oneself with oil before a competition was of Spartan origin, although the Celts were given to body shave before battles. They sought thereby to extol the body; give relief, volume, detail, brightness and “life” to the muscles, therefore proudly displaying the result of years and years of grueling physical training and strenuous efforts, probably with the aim of finding the best partner and/or gaining prestige.

The guilt and sense of sin that Christianity tried to impose in the field of body pride made man feel ashamed of the very things he was proudest. Judeo-Christian morality, by condemning hygiene, care, training and the preparation of the body as “sinful,” “sensual” and “pagan” gradually achieved that the European population—converted into an amorphous herd whose attitude to any hint of divine perfection was met with resentment and mistrust—forgot that their bodies also were a creation and a gift from God.

For young people of both sexes such festivals served to became familiar with each other, because we think that Sparta was a city with few inhabitants, where thanks to public ceremonies everyone knew everybody by sight and was integrated into the popular. It was at these events where you watched and chose your future spouse. The competition also served to establish hierarchies in beauty, courage, strength, agility, hardness, endurance, courage, skill and speed; and the best men would join the best women, as might be the case for the coronation of a king and a queen in a contest, or a champion and a championess in a competition. In his Republic Plato said that it is necessary that the best men join the best women most of the time, and that the worst men join the worst women; and that you have to raise the children of the first, not those of the second. Thanks to this, and to the facilities and even obligations of marriage, the young Spartans married men and women between twenty and twenty-five years.

Le us imagine all those pagan cults of sacrifice, struggle, union and that glorification of the collective existence of a great people. That’s pride and socialist joy or nationalism, a cult for effort and struggle through which the Spartans themselves nourished themselves, as the warriors’ deeds made that the youngest would want to match them and beat them, they longed for their opportunity to demonstrate their flowering qualities. Moreover, knowledge of the deeds of the society helped Spartans to know themselves; to be proud of their homeland, and to become aware of its grandeur and superiority. Everything was wisely designed for the burning of Spartan pride to last.

What would ritualism in such a “socialist” country be? It was simple and austere, and the Spartans took it with fanatical solemnity, for all rituals were perfect and the result flawless. The rites had to be carried out at whatever cost. It is known that before the battles the Spartans celebrated a sacrifice, usually a male goat: a fertility sign, and under no circumstances they fought before the ritual was consummated. There is the story of how this was practiced to an extreme once the enemy appeared during the ritual. The Spartans did not move from their positions until the ending of the ceremonial, even when the first enemy arrows started the killing and wounding others. When the ritual ended they fought and won the battle. Such kind of feelings, orbiting around rites in which they reproduced symbolic events, kept them in contact with the beyond: where the force of the fallen and the ancient fathers dwelt.

All these elements contributed to form a highly spiritual feeling: the Spartan felt himself as the summit of creation, the favorite of the gods, a privileged, magnificent, splendid, arrogant and godlike creature; a member of a holy seed, a holy race and lucky “link in the eternal racial chain,” a protagonist of an unparalleled feat of an extremely profound mystical experience that he was convinced would end up leading him directly to the immortality of Olympus, as the semi-divine heroes he worshiped. He was proud of being a Spartiate because precisely the fact that to become one of them it was necessary to overcome the hardest ordeals made him feel a holder of a privilege.

Nietzsche said, “For a tree to reach Heaven with its branches, it must first touch Hell with its roots,” and it is said that Odin went down to the huts before ascending to the palaces. This implies that only after passing the most terrible tests the warrior has earned the right to access to higher states, on pain of suffering the degradation to which it leads the drunken arrogance of the one who has not hardened in suffering and is not able to take the pleasure, power and luxury with respect, care, gentleness, veneration, humility and an almost apprehensive appreciation. The Spartans had reached the bottom, sinking into the whole tragedy of their atrocious instruction, and also had passed through all the manly sensations of fullness, health, vigor, strength, power, force, dominion, glory, victory, joy, camaraderie, reward and triumph. Having covered the whole emotional range that goes from pain to pleasure made them possessors of a wisdom exclusive for the heroes and the fallen, and surely no one could appreciate more the significance and importance of pleasures than the Spartans.

It existed in Sparta, as in other places, an initiating circle of priests and priestesses. Little is known about them except that they were selected men and women, initiated at specific sites in secret ceremonies called “mysteries,” which made them the repositories of ancient wisdom and esoteric mystical orientation. In Greece, the mysteries represented what could not be explained rationally with words, but that was necessary to see and live it. The mysteries (of Delphi, Eleusis, Delos, Samothrace, Orpheus, etc.) became prestigious initiation schools, with important people attending from all Hellas with intent of awakening the spirit. Much of what we know of them is related to a decadent age which had betrayed the secret, so the ritual was monstrously disfigured and the true mysteries gone.

Mount Taygetos, symbol of pride and elitism of Sparta, was also called Mount Dionysius because it was there where the Spartans worshiped this god in a mystery of elaborate ritual ceremonies, the mysteries of Dionysus. Dionysus is a kind of Hellenic Shiva (in Hinduism, Shiva is said to meditate on the top of Mount Meru): a divine, destructive and dancing archetype. Much confusion has arisen around Dionysus, so we will try to clean up the image of this god.

The mythology explained that Dionysus was the son of Zeus (a masculine and heavenly principle) and of some earthly goddess (an earthly, feminine principle) that, according to some versions, is Demeter, Persephone and Semele. Dionysius had been torn (like the Egyptian Osiris and the Vedic Purusha) and eaten by the Titans (chthonic entities) but, as the Titans ended up breeding men, all men have within them a spark of Dionysus. Zeus could save the heart of Dionysus and, planting it in the womb of his mother (in other versions, in Zeus’ thigh), Dionysus was reborn and rose to the rank of “twice born.”

Dionysus was the god of the strong instincts, of the fullness of life, spiritual abundance, the joy of life, transparent pleasure, gratitude; the joyful and furious frenzy of happiness that, wanting earthly eternity, needs the children. It was par excellence the god of the healthy and strong: of that popular pagan joy that overflows and creates in its abundant happiness—or destroys in its unbridled rage—; the god of the instincts that make one feel alive and rise the race above its material limitations or from everyday pettiness.

Over time, however, as Hellas was losing its purity, the cult of Dionysus was easily perverted (being a god of bodily, material and “dark” impulses) and became a fat god of orgies: a noisy god of amusements, alcohol, promiscuity and insane hysteria. The Romans adopted this deformed god as Bacchus, and his followers (mostly cowardly, decadent, perverted, morbid and boring women of good families) made the cult degenerate into orgies including blood sacrifices, promiscuous sex and alcohol poisoning. It was such a scandal formed around the Bacchanalia that the senate of Rome in 186 BCE forbade it and exterminated its followers in a great slaughter.


The supremacy over Athens

At this point, we must address the issue that will certainly be around the heads of many readers: the comparison Sparta-Athens. What city was “better”?

Often we are told that Athens represented the artistic and spiritual summit of Greece and Sparta the physical and warrior evolution. It’s not as easy as that. We must start from the basis that it is a great mistake to judge the development of a society for its commercial or material advancement. This would lead us to conclude that the illiterate Charlemagne was lower than anybody else present, or Dubai the home of the world’s most exalted civilization.

It is necessary to better assess the spirituality, health, individual quality and the genetic background of which a society is depository. This could ground us in unusual lands, for instance, that the Cro-Magnon culture was highest that has stepped on the planet. As already mentioned, not without reason it has been said that the whole Spartan state was an order, a union of warrior-monks, as the Spartans zealously cultivated a discipline and ancient wisdom that most Greek states had lost. Many have noticed that the harsh Spartan discipline practices have a distinctively touch of a warrior yoga, meaning that any ascetic yoga practice would help the physical, mental and spiritual improvement. In Sparta everything worked within the mystique and the uttermost devotion of the people of Greece, and it is a huge mistake to believe that the only polished Spartan instruction was the body.

Thus we come to the important subject of art. It usually happens that it is a common argument to vilify Sparta. The Spartans used to say that they carved monuments in the flesh, which implied that their art was a living one: literally them, and the individuals that composed their homeland.

But Sparta also had conventional art as understood in the present. It was famous throughout Greece for its music and dance (of which nothing has survived), as well as its highly-prized poetry that has come to us fragmented. Its architects and sculptors were employed in such prestigious places as Delphi and Olympia, and imposed a stamp of straight simplicity and crystal clarity in their works. The best example of this is the sober Doric style, direct heritage of Sparta that became a model not only for countless temples throughout Greece, as the Parthenon in Athens itself, but also for the classic taste of later Europe that has endeavored to continue the legacy of Greece and Rome.

DoricParthenon

Example of Doric architectural style, considered the paradigm of the classic in the West.

The Greeks, and particularly the Spartans, studied “physiognomy” to interpret the character, personality, and ultimately the soul of an individual based on physical features, especially of the face to the point that ugliness in certain Greek states was practically a curse. It was also believed that beauty and a willingness of the features should be an expression of noble qualities necessary for a beautiful body bearer, if only dormant. The creators of the Greek statues made them with that knowledge of the human face and of the perfect proportions in mind, and therefore represented not only a beautiful body but also a beautiful body carrying a beautiful soul. The blind rage with which the Christians destroyed most Greek statues indicates that they greatly feared what they represented, because in them the Hellenes fixed and settled, once and for all, as a goal and template and ideal: the human type that Christianity would never be able to produce.

Many other states, on the other hand, suffered from a taste for the exotic and the cosmopolitan in which all empires fall when they neglect their attention, authenticity and identity. Gobineau called Athens the most Phoenician of the Greek cities (Essay on the Inequality of Human Races, Book IV, Chapter IV). Athens, with the plutocracy of Piraeus; with its mob of merchants, charlatans, noisy slaves, acrobats, pseudo-intellectuals, pundits, soothsayers and false Egyptian magicians; sumptuous clothes, rich food, spices, incense, colors, flavors, perfumes, obscene riches, deformed mystery cults, orgiastic ceremonies, prostitution, alcoholism, dirt, disease, and finally rampant decay in demagoguery including cosmopolitanism, hedonism, homosexuality, multiculturalism and miscegenation, was farther from the European ideal than Sparta, which did not embrace this filth (only when it was not Sparta anymore). Spartiates remained essentially rustic, rough and authentic.

In Athens there emerged countless philosophical schools (some of them, as the sophists and cynics, reflecting a clearly decadent spirit) which attests the chaos and contradictions within the Athenian citizens and the Athenian national body itself. Demagoguery and the sagacity of the slave, the shopkeeper, the merchant, the Phoenician dealer, and the nomad of the desert began to leave a mark. And this is acclaimed by historians of philosophy that teach today (Julius Evola pointed out the pleasure with which modern civilization sees in Athens the origin of democracy). In Sparta people did not ramble or speculated because its inhabitants knew the laws of the land, the sky and the species; and lived in agreement with them with no hustle, speculation, or absurd discussions.

The Athenians despised them because they considered the Spartans brutal and simple. The Spartans despised Athenians because they considered them soft and effeminate even though the Athenians, as Greeks, were also great athletes—though never to the level of the Spartans. It is said that a Spartan who contemplated a painting depicting victorious Athenians was asked “Are those Athenians brave?” He replied “Yes, in painting.”

There was a latent rivalry between the Ionian people of an Athens influenced by Asia Minor, and the Dorian people of Sparta directly influenced by their own Nordic heritage, who never stopped being governed by anything but their ancestral tradition and their own popular consciousness. With the exception of Athens, which saw herself as the best, all other Hellenic states reserved their admiration for Sparta, seeing it as a shrine of wisdom and justice: the true repository of primitive Hellenic tradition. Sparta was always the most famous and respected city among the Greeks. They always resorted to it to arbitrate interstate disputes, and most of the times they not even had to resort to force: Sparta sent an ambassador to which everyone would voluntarily submit, like a divine envoy.

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 6:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sparta – XIII

“Self-sacrifice enables us to sacrifice other people without blushing.”

—George Bernard Shaw,
Man and Superman

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The Spartan politics for their inferiors: the crypteia

The Spartans kept themselves segregated from non-Spartans to keep their valuable essence undisturbed. Not only racism and aloofness, but the lack of mercy towards their slaves were for the Spartiate a vital necessity that soothed his paranoia in the short-term and also renewed it the long-term. Let us turn our attention, then, to the outcome of the acute racism among the Spartans.

The situation of caste stratification in Sparta was unique, because the life of the aristocracy was much tougher than the life of the people. That did not happen in other civilizations, where the common people wanted to take over the way of life of the dominant caste. The Helots did not want—in the least—to submit themselves to the ruthless discipline of the Spartan life compared with which the cultivation of the soil was simple, smooth and painless.

It was the ephors who, each year, with the greatest solemnity declared war on the Helots; that is, they authorized to kill freely without it being considered murder. Once a year, the Helots were beaten in public for no reason; each Helot should be beaten a number of times every year just to remember that he was still a slave. And when the government thought they had bred too much or suspected they planned uprisings, the crypteia or krypteia took place.

Crypteia is a word that means “hidden,” “occult” or even “secret” and “underground” (words with the particle crypto derive from this), taking the name from a test of the deep symbolism that many Spartan boys of instruction age had to submit. Alone, barefoot, without warm clothes and provided only with a knife, the chosen Spartan lad was thrown into inhabited Helot lands. He remained long time hiding in the daylight hours, obtaining his food from nature and living outdoors. During the dark hours, stealthy he stalked Helots and entered into their roads and their properties quietly and silently: killing as many of them that he could, stealing food and probably removing some bloody trophy that demonstrated the success of his hunt. Thousands of Helots fell this way throughout the history of Sparta and probably many young Spartans as well.

This ordeal has been considered as a military exercise or a baptism of blood and a warrior initiation ritual. Some have even elevated the importance of the crypteia institution to the level of initiation: a kind of secret service composed of the most fanatical cubs of promising Spartans, designed specifically to contain the growth of the Helots and keep them psychologically subjugated, and revitalize the tension between the two ends of the scale that made the Laconia State.

The young Spartan, after years of living in nature, had become accustomed to it. The long days of loneliness made his senses sharpen; get used to sniff the air, and feel like a real predator. At night he descended down the mountain to fall upon his victims with all the ferocity that his racism endowed; his training, and his natural disposition to sacrifice and death, hiding afterwards. After completing the mission he returned victorious to his home. This was the culmination of the guerrilla training, confirming that the Spartans were not herd animals but also lone wolves: great fighters in droves (not herd because the herd is hierarchical), and able to manage by themselves when needed: excellent collective soldiers in open warfare but also fearsome individual fighters in that elusive, dark, and dirty war so characteristic of the Iron Age.

This guerrilla training could have originated since the first Messenian war, in which the military formations were destroyed and they had to resort to hand strikes; ambushes and assassinations taking advantage of what the field (forest, mountains, towns) could offer, the tactical situation (unprotected, unarmed, distracted or careless enemy) and the environmental conditions (night, darkness, fog). But this mode of combat was also devised as a way of preparing to resist if Sparta fell under his enemies and suffered a military occupation. In the event of such a catastrophe, every Spartan male was ready to flee to the woods or forest with nothing; survive on his own, and run selective attacks and ambushes on the enemy. It was, therefore, a form of leaderless resistance. Another event taken into account was a Messenian rebellion in which the rebels withdrew to the fields; Sparta being embroiled in a nasty guerrilla war to hunt them down and exterminate them slowly. This, as we shall see, duly took place.

Another example that describes the lack of scruples of the Spartans with their inferiors is provided by the following incident, which occurred in 424 BCE.

The Spartan government had reason to believe that the Helots were going to rebel. After a battle in which the Spartans hired recruits, they liberated 2,000 of those Helots who had distinguished themselves for valor in combat. After having organized a banquet to celebrate it and placed laurels on their heads, the ephors ordered to kill them all. Those 2,000 men disappeared in the woods without a trace and no more was heard of them. And as the bravest Helots had been eliminated in this immense crypteia, Helot population, bereft of leaders, did not rebel. We can imagine the psychological effect that the massacre had on their compatriots. This story made evident how far the Spartans abandoned all chivalry, code of honor or moral behavior when they thought they were defending the existence of their people.

Another Spartan law with racist connotations was to prohibit hair dyes. In the rest of Greece dyes were common; as were blonde wigs, the methods of hair bleaching and the elaborate and extravagant hairstyles like those of Babylon or Etruria (and later in decadent Rome). At one stage of the devolution, when the original native breed in Greece was being diluted by miscegenation, the dyes and the concoctions for hair bleaching were highly prized, especially among women. The same would happen in decadent Rome: Roman wigs were made with the golden hair taken from female German prisoners.

In Sparta the influx of foreigners was jealously limited. It was only possible to visit Sparta for pressing reasons. Similarly, the very Spartans were rarely allowed to travel abroad, and even the slave trade was banned. This was motivated by the interest of the elite that its core would not be not corrupted by the softness of foreign customs. The Spartans undoubtedly were great xenophobes.

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 6:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sparta – XIV

sparta


My brethren in war! I love you from the very heart. I am, and was ever, your counterpart. And I am also your best enemy. So let me tell you the truth!

I know the hatred and envy of your hearts. Ye are not great enough not to know of hatred and envy. Then be great enough not to be ashamed of them!

“What is good?” ye ask. To be brave is good. Let the little girls say: “To be good is what is pretty, and at the same time touching.”

They call you heartless: but your heart is true, and I love the bashfulness of your goodwill. Ye are ashamed of your flow, and others are ashamed of their ebb.

Your highest thought, however, ye shall have it commanded unto you by me—and it is this: man is something that is to be surpassed.

So live your life of obedience and of war! What matter about long life! What warrior wisheth to be spared!

I spare you not, I love you from my very heart, my brethren in war!—

—Nietzsche


War

War for the Spartans was a real party as, during wars, they relaxed the cruder aspects of the controls and solid discipline. They permitted that the soldiers beautified their weapons, armor, clothes and hair. They softened the harshness of the exercises and allowed a less severe disciplinary regime in general, plus larger and complete meals. Consequently, for them “the war was a break from the preparing for war,” as Plutarch wrote, and this made them subconsciously prefer war to peace.

Each Spartan was a hoplite (a word that comes from hoplon, shield), a formidable war machine, a weapon of mass destruction, an elite soldier infantry: well trained, armed and equipped with the best of his time—a weight of approximately seventy pounds.

The Spartan soldier wore:

• A two-meter spear (which also had a tip at its lower end in order to finish off the fallen).

• A shield (hoplon or aspis) of ninety centimeters in diameter, weighing nine kilos and lined with bronze. In the center of the shield a bee of natural size was painted (remember that the bee was an attribute of the goddess Artemis). They were always told that the optimum distance for the attack was that where the bee could be clearly distinguished.

• A dagger.

• An armor made of metal plates that allowed some mobility.

• A helmet designed to cover the entire head and the face with holes for the eyes, nose and mouth. It probably evolved from a more primitive model, as used by the Germans, which usually consisted of a cap that protected the face and skull; a bump down the brow to protect the nose, and two bumps on the sides covering the ears or cheeks, whose purpose was to protect the winged attacks to the head.

• Greaves that protected the shins and knees.

• A sword called xyphos which hung on the left thigh, and was particularly short to be controlled from compact rows where the hindrance of a long sword was not welcome. The Athenians made fun of the short length of the Spartan swords and the Spartans answered, “He who is not afraid to approach the enemy does not require long swords.”

The Spartan Hoplite also wore a coat. It was red to disguise the color of blood. The visible colors were, then: the red coat, the golden bronze, and the white and black crest, in some places of checkerboard design, like a dualistic sign. (The custom of wearing red textile with the specific goal of disguising the blood also occurred with the Roman legionaries and the imperial British military, the “Redcoats.”)

The Spartan hoplites were barefoot during battle because their feet were so tanned that their skin was tougher than any footwear. With them they could climb rocks and stomp on rough snow or spines without even noticing. Their shield—a most important tool and a symbol of camaraderie whose loss was a disgrace (as for the Germans, according to Tacitus)—showed off the Greek letter lambda (Λ / λ), the equivalent to the Rune Laf, representing the sound “L” as initial of Laconia, Lacedaemonia and Lycurgus; although the rune Ur (sometimes represented exactly like the lambda and symbolizing virility) may be a more appropriate “translation.” The phrase associated with this rune was: “Know yourself and know everything.” At the oracle of Delphi it was written, “Know thyself” on a temple, so that the rune Ur again fits perfectly in the Spartan context.

Let us now turn our attention to the Spartan warriors. How were the clashes? The captains harangued their men with a traditional formula, “Go ahead, armed sons of Sparta, come into the dance of Ares.” In battle they marched in tightly-closed ranks; with calm, discipline and gravity, relying on the immeasurable strength of all their instruction, to the sound of a flute and singing the solemn song of marches known as the Paean, a hymn to Apollo. It was a type of flute traversière which sound is closely associated with the infantry, especially in the eighteenth century. The sound conveyed trust, safety, lightness and a serene joy.

hopliteIllustration of a Spartan hoplite. The arms show that the Spartan is terribly muscularly and roasted by the sun and air, since he has been permanently exposed throughout his life. The illustration has some flaws, however. The sword, which should be holstered on the left side of the hip, is absent or not visible. The bronze helmet, shield and greaves on the legs should be shiny as gold, not worn off as the Spartans beautified and polished their weapons and armor, which were clean at the time of combat. There are also extra sandals in the illustration as the Spartans were always barefoot. And the hair color is too dark.

This close formation was called the phalanx, of which the Spartans were the greatest teachers of leading tactics that other Greek strategists considered extremely complicated. Shields formed an impenetrable wall from which soldiers, in serried ranks, side by side, shoulder to shoulder and shield to shield, stabbed and cut with spears and swords. The Macedonians and the Romans (even, in their way, the Spanish troops and the armies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) inherited this form of combat that put emphasis on the close order. John Keegan, in his History of Warfare, explains it well:

Crossing a no man’s land perhaps 150 yards wide at a clumsy run, under a weight of armor and weapons of seventy pounds, the ranks drove straight into each other. Each individual would have chosen another as his target at the moment of contact, thrusting his spear point at some gap between shield and shield, and seeking to hit a patch of flesh not covered by armor—throat, armpit or groin. The chance was fleeting. As the second and subsequent ranks were brought up short by the stop in front, the phalanx concertinaed, throwing the weight of seven men on to the back of the warriors engaged with the enemy. Under this impact some men inevitably went down at once, dead, wounded, or overborne from the rear.

That might create a breach in the shield wall. Those in the second or third ranks strove to open it wider with their spears, thrusting and jabbing from their relatively protected position at whoever they could reach. If it widened, there followed the othismos, ‘push with shield’, to widen it further and to win room in which swords, the hoplite’s secondary weapon, might be drawn and used to slash at an enemy’s legs. The othismos was the most certain method, however: it could lead to the pararrexis or ‘breaking’, when the most heavily beset by the enemy’s pressure began to feel the impulse to flight, and either broke from the rear ranks or, more shamefully, struggled backward from the point of killing to infect their comrades with panic also.

As we see, it was a kind of war requiring very good preparation; a methodical fighting type that contrasted with the previous “barbarian” combat: more open, freer, individualistic and furious. The evolution of war marked the evolution of the people. They had discovered that they were stronger together and well coordinated, as if they were a single entity, a god.

All the changes of direction or attack were communicated by the music of the fifes. Today, in the military close order, orders can be given with a bugle, each melody is a determined order. The closed order of modern armies is simply a legacy of the spirit of the Spartan phalanx: socialist institutions to the core. In spite of the fact that close order is no longer the key to success in combat, it is undeniable that it reinforces collective coordination, camaraderie, pride, the esprit de corps and ceremonial rituals that so matter in our day, and the difference that converting a set of men into a unit can make.

The battles were bloody and cruel. Obviously, the fighting was hand to hand and the attacks made by cutting or piercing through the body with sharp edges or tips of extremely sharp metal blades, which caused terrible injuries and mutilations. As a result, many suffered war wounds or were maimed. What did these crippled do in a state like Sparta? They just turned up in the battle with the greatest fanaticism to accelerate their own destruction and the arrival of glory. It was normal to see mutilated veterans (remember Miguel de Cervantes), blind, lame or maimed in the ranks of Spartan combatants. A stranger asked a blind hoplite why he would fight in such a state. The blind man said that “at least I’ll chip the sword of the enemy.”

The Spartans marching into battle always received the shield from their mothers, who delivered them with the severe words, “With it or on it”: back with the shield or on the shield, victory or death; because if someone fell in battle the comrades carried the body, and then his ashes, on the shield. (The Spartans, like all Indo-Europeans from Scandinavia to India, practiced cremation burial ritual.) The shield was thus a lunar symbol equivalent to the cup, which collects the solar essence of fallen hero and, as a cup, related to the archetype of the woman. In fact, a woman delivering the shield is a fairly common archetypal motif in European art of all eras. The shield had, as a talisman, the power to protect not only ourselves but the comrades in arms, so it should be considered almost magical.

The doctrine of loyalty, war, and resurrection of the hero allowed the Spartans to march to the fiercest fighting with a calm serenity and joy that nowadays few would understand and many repudiate. Knowing that they would be unable to do such a thing what is left is vilifying the one who, for self-worth and inner will, was capable of doing it. Before the fighting, tranquility was obvious among them: some combed, cleaned or carefully tended their hair. Others brightened their breastplates and helmets; cleaned and sharpened their weapons, made athletic exercises or measured each other in boxing or wrestling. Even before the legendary battle of Thermopylae, the Persians observers reported an astonished Xerxes that the Spartans were fighting among themselves and combing the hair.

Camaraderie, forged in difficult situations, even in the face of death, was an important part of Spartan society, as it reinforced the union and mutual confidence. The cult of strength, competition and manhood made the comrades in arms to exceed and protect each other. Often an adult men took under his wing a young person or child, although in this case the relationship was like that of the master and pupil, as was the relationship between Achilles (the young, temerarious and vigorous hero) and Patroclus (his prudent and wise mentor, older than him): a relationship that without any justification has been classified simply as homosexual by certain media groups. Something similar to the defaming process of the Achilles-Patroclus relationship has occurred regarding lesbianism. The way that our current society averts healthy people from the Greek ideal, the Indo-European ideal, is to ridicule it and claim that homosexuality was absolutely normal in Greece by means of pulling out from the sleeve sodomite and lesbian relationships from any reference of fellowship, mastership, devotion and friendship. And this is where modern historiography, clearly serving the interests of social engineering, has gotten his big nose.

The pace of life that the Spartan male bore was of an intensity to kill a herd of rhinos, and not even the women of Sparta would have been able to stand it. Thus the world of the Spartan military was a universe in itself—a universe of men. On the other hand, the intense emotional relationship, the cult of virility and the camaraderie that existed between teacher and student, in phalanx combat and throughout society, has served to fuel these days the myth of homosexuality. On this, Xenophon wrote:

The customs instituted by Lycurgus were opposed to all of these [what other Greek states did, nominally Athens and Corinth]. If someone, being himself an honest man, admired a boy’s soul and tried to make of him an ideal friend without reproach and to associate with him, he approved, and believed in the excellence of this kind of training. But if it was clear that the attraction lay in the boy’s outward beauty, he banned the connexion as an abomination; and thus he caused lovers to abstain from boys no less than parents abstain from sexual intercourse with their children and brothers and sisters with each other. [Constitution of the Lacedaemonians, 2].

The relationship between man and teenager in Sparta was that of teacher-student, based on respect and admiration: a workout, a way of learning, instruction in their own way. The sacredness of the teacher-student or instructor-aspirant institution has been challenged by our society for a while, just as the männerbund. Yet, both types of relationships are the foundation of the unity of the armies. Today, children grow up in the shadow of the feminine influence of the female teachers, even through adolescence. It is difficult to know to what extent the lack of male influence limits their wills and ambitions, making them gentle beings, malleable and controllable: what is good for the globalist system.

Others spoke about the Spartan institution of love between master and disciple, but always made it clear that this love was “chaste.” The Roman Aelian said that if two Spartan men “succumbed to temptation and indulged in carnal relations, they would have to redeem the affront to the honor of Sparta by either going into exile or taking their own lives” (at the time exile was considered worse than death).

It is noteworthy that if homosexuality was indeed so natural to the original Hellenes as it was for the Greeks of decadent states, Hellenic mythology would be infested with explicit references to such relationships, which is not, as homosexuality was a plague outside the Hellenic spirit that appeared when Greece was already declining. By the time of Plato, for example, homosexuality was beginning to be tolerated in Athens itself. However, ancient and even some modern authors make it clear that Sparta did not fall in this filth. The fallacy that homosexuality was “traditional” and well regarded in Greece is refuted in detail in the article “El mito derrumbado.”

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 6:01 pm  Comments (1)  

Sparta – XV

“A desperate fight remains for all time a shining example. Let us remember Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans!”

—The Testament of Adolf Hitler (1945)


sparta


The Battle of Thermopylae as an example of heroism


This is one of the most famous battles in history. It decided the future of Europe and in it the Spartans showed the world their immense quality. The Battle of Thermopylae came framed within the context of the Greco-Persian Wars, which catalyst was the expansion of the Greek presence in Asia Minor with the extension of the Greek colonies to the east. During the Greco-Persian Wars emperor Darius of Persia had been defeated in the famous battle of Marathon (490 BCE), after which Sparta and Athens signed a military pact aimed at the defense of Greece against the Persians in the near future. Darius was succeeded on his death in 485 BCE by the very ambitious Xerxes, who craved to take over large parts of Europe.

Persia was a vast reign ruled by an Iranian aristocracy, the descendants of the Medes, who along with the Persians before them and after the Parthians monopolized, during their existence, the domain of the empire—the largest in the world—, stretching from Turkey to Afghanistan.

Persia was a united and centralized state with vast crowds, massive and specialized armies and endless tracts of land. Its existence was already a feat worthy of those who made it possible. Although the background of this empire was clearly Indo-European it had become an abyss of miscegenation, as it held sway over a wide variety of non-Indo-European peoples, including Jews and the descendants of the ancient Mesopotamian civilizations. The Punics of Carthage (in what today is Tunisia) in alliance with Persia were ready to strike the Greek dominions in Italy and Sicily. Europe faced foreign hordes, a geopolitical meddling and a flood of eastern blood of magnitude not seen since the Neolithic.

Greece, on the other hand, besides being infinitely smaller, was not even a state but covered a balkanized collection of city-states or poleis that often warred with each other. There was no empire—that would come with the Macedonians. The ethnic heritage was, on the whole, more Indo-European in Greece than in Persia, and the strong political personality of the Hellenic polis made of Greece the only major obstacle of the Persian conquest of the Balkans and the Danube.

In the year 481 BCE, before invading Greece, Persia sent two ambassadors to Sparta offering the possibility of surrender. King Leonidas made them to be directly thrown into a well. This impulsive act, little “diplomatic” and highly condemnable, has an explanation. Leonidas had not been raised exactly as a Spartan prince because in first place the throne did not correspond to him. There was a king, but had poor health and did not survive. His succession fell on the following fellow in line, which had been brought up as a prince in anticipation to the health problems of the previous king. This one, however, fell in battle and suddenly Leonidas found himself in the throne of Sparta, having been raised as a common Spartan boy without the diplomatic finesse imparted in princely education. Leonidas was a soldier: blunt, simple and to the point.

It is clear, in any case, that the Ephorate did not consider just the murder of the ambassadors, as it sent two Spartan volunteers to go to Persia, submitted to Xerxes and offered as sacrifice to “atone” for the injustice that Leonidas committed against the ambassadors. Xerxes rejected the offer and let them go. He did not make a similar mistake, or get his hands dirty with blood or being found guilty of dishonor. The Athenians were more sensible: when the Persian ambassadors made their bids, they simply declined.

That same year, Xerxes sent emissaries to all the Greek cities except Sparta and Athens, requesting their submission. Many, terrified of his power, subjected while others, prudently, remained neutral although their sympathies lie with Greece. Sparta and Athens, seeing that an anti-Hellenic alliance was emerging, called for the other cities to form an alliance against Persia. Few responded. Persia was the new superpower, the new star. Its sweeping advance was a fact and its ultimate triumph, almost a given.

Persia began shipping its army, the largest in the world, and moved to Europe to conquer Greece. According to Herodotus, the Persian army consisted of 2 million men. Today, some have reduced this figure to 250,000 or even 175,000 men (including 80,000 cavalry), but it is still a massive army: a crushing and brutal numerical entity, especially compared with the tiny Greek force. As the Persian tide moved, all the villages it passed submitted without a fight.

Hellenic allies then met in Corinth. Envoys from Sparta, Athens, Corinth, Thebes, Plataea, Thespiae, Phocis, Thessaly, Aegina and others, parleyed on the strategy. They formed the Peloponnesian League, confirming the Hellenic alliance to boldly resist Persia. All Peloponnese poleis (excluding Argos, a traditional and stubborn enemy of Sparta) joined the alliance. The league was put in command by Sparta; Leonidas was made commander in chief of the troops of the league. The leagues were common occurrences in Greece, and they expressed the more “federalist” trends that somehow sought unification and a proper Pan-Hellenic nation. Some leagues were created only to face a common enemy, dissolving themselves afterwards and other leagues lingered; always pursuing political goals and long-term business. The Peloponnesian League was one of these ephemeral “emergency leagues.”

An army of 10,000 was formed of Peloponnesian Greeks under the command of Sparta. Since they had agreed to defend the passage of Tempe, they were stationed on the slopes of Mount Olympus, in northeastern Greece. However, King Alexander I of Macedon, who had good relations with Persia but felt sympathy for the Greeks and especially for Sparta, warned the Spartan commanders that the position was vulnerable by the presence of several pathways, and they decided to abandon it in favor of another more defensible position. At that time the Thessalians, considering themselves lost, submitted to Persia.

The definitive site for the defense of Greece was established in the pass of Thermopylae, the “Hot Gates.” According to legend, Heracles had rushed into the water to appease the inner fire that tormented him, turning it instead in thermal waters. The area was basically a narrow passage between the steep mountain and the sea. At its narrowest the gorge was 15 meters wide. This meant that although the Greeks were numerically lower, at least the fighters would face a funnel that balanced the scale, as only a certain number of warriors from each side could fight at once. And yet it was a desperate move, as the Greeks would soon tire while the Persians always counted with waves of fresh troops.

According to Herodotus, after coming to the sanctuary of Delphi, the Spartans received from the oracle the following prophecy:

For you, inhabitants of wide-wayed Sparta,
Either your great and glorious city must be wasted by Persian men,
Or if not that, then the bound of Lacedaemon
must mourn a dead king, from Heracles’ line.
The might of bulls or lions will not restrain him with opposing strength;
for he has the might of Zeus.
I declare that he will not be restrained until he utterly tears apart one of these.

Or a king of Sparta died, or Sparta fell. Consider how this prophecy could have influenced Leonidas. Suddenly, a heavy burden of responsibility on his shoulders had been downloaded. This monstrous doom, that would kill of shock most and make them sweat and shake, was received by the king with dignity and sense of royal duty. The mission of any Spartan was sacrificing his life for his country if needed. It was natural and joyful for them.

In the summer of 480 BCE, the Peloponnesian troops reached Thermopylae and camped up there. There were about eighty men of Mycenae, 200 of Phlius, 400 of Corinth, 400 of Thebes, 500 of Mantinea, 500 of Tegea, 700 of Thespiae, 1,000 of Phocis, 1,120 of Arcadia and all the men of Locris. The Athenians were absent because they had put their hoplites and commitment to the naval fleet, which also was ridiculous compared to the Persian navy. But the gang that should have received cheers and applause, the formation whose mere presence instilled courage and confidence to all military buildup, was the group that showed only 300 Spartans for battle. No more Spartans came because their city was celebrating a religious holiday, which prohibited Army mobilization. And for the Spartans, the first and most important was to make peace with the gods and not violate the ritual order of existence.

So the Greeks were together about 7,000—seven thousand Greeks against 250,000 Persians (175,000 according to other modern historians). Imagine the variety of the colorful congregation: the brightness of the bronze, the solemn atmosphere, the commentaries on the diverse gangs, the emblems on the shields, the typical rivalry gossip in the military, the feeling of togetherness, respect and a common destiny. The entire camp had to be surrounded by an aura of manliness and heroism. These Greeks, mostly hoplites, were well instructed. Since their younger days they were used to handling weapons and exercise the body. However, the only “professional” army was the Spartan, because in other places the hoplites lived with their families, trained on their own and were only called in case of war; while in Sparta they were permanently militarized since childhood under the terrible discipline that characterized them, and never stopped the training.

Among the Persians, however, the situation was very different. Although undoubtedly they had the numerical advantage and equipment, most were young men who had been conscripted and had little military training. However, they had highly specialized units. Unlike the Greeks, who, conditioned by their land, had stubbornly perfected the infantry level, the Persians had a formidable cavalry, chariots and excellent archers. In the vast plains, plateaus and steppes of Asia, to dominate this type of highly mobile forms of warfare was essential. The Persian Empire also had “the immortals,” a famous elite unit composed of ten thousand chosen among the Persian and Median aristocracy that, under General Hydarnes, formed the royal guard of Xerxes. The officers also consisted of Persian members of the aristocracy.

Xerxes camped his troops at the entrance, in Trachis. Leonidas, as soon he reached Thermopylae, rebuilt the ancient wall of two meters in the narrowest part of the pass, quartering the troops behind him. Having been informed that there was a path around the pass that led to the other side, he sent a thousand Phocaeans to defend it.

Xerxes, who could not conceive that the Greeks be obstinate in fighting, sent an emissary to parley with Leonidas, encouraging him to put his arms aside. The soldier’s laconic reply was “Come and catch them.” That night, when a Locris hoplite of defeatist tone commented that the cloud of Persian archers’ arrows would darken the sky and turn the day into night, Leonidas answered: “Then we’ll fight in the shade.”

The next morning, the troops appeared in ranks of formation. The Persians had gathered thousands of Medes and Kysios (Iranian peoples) and stationed at the entrance of the pass. At first, their orders were to capture alive the Greeks, as the Emperor thought he could place chains on them and display them in Persia as trophies, the style of the later Roman triumphs. Leonidas, meanwhile, made the Greeks form in the narrow gorge, and took his royal position at the right end of the phalanx. He decided not to mix the different peoples of his contingent. In his experience the soldiers preferred that well-known comrades died beside them, and it was more difficult that they fled in combat if those who they abandoned were lifetime family and friends. Leonidas put his Spartans to the front of the formation, as a spearhead. They would be the first to engage.

Ominously the Persians advanced and entered the gorge. The Spartans sang the paean with religious solemnity. When the Persians began raiding with terrifying shouting, the relentless meat grinder of the Spartan phalanx began to operate silently. The Persians crashed into the wall of shields with a deafening roar, waving their arms and finally skewering into the Spartan spears. Imagine the sight of that.

The blood that had run, the orders at the top of lungs, the cries of war and of pain, the cuts and stabbings, the reddened spears in and out rhythmically as sinister spikes from the shield of chest-plates splashed with blood, attacking accurately the weaknesses of poorly protected enemy bodies; the shocks and bumps, the terrible wounds, the bodies of the fallen and the Spartans maintaining calm and silence in the midst of the confusion and the terrible din of battle; the Persians, brave but ineffective, immolating themselves in a glorious feat. The Spartans seemed to be everywhere, and there they were, inspiring the other Greeks to imitate them, pointing out that victory was possible and stirring the moral. By their conduct they were proving that their socialism of union and sacrifice was clearly superior to any other political system, and that they were better prepared to face the Iron Age.

Unlike Leonidas, Xerxes did not fight. Sitting on his throne of gold, located in a suitable place, he watched with horror what was happening: his troops were being slaughtered catastrophically. The Persians had much lighter and ineffective armor than the heavy Greek cuirass, as the type of Persian fight was based on mobility, speed, fluidity and flexibility of large crowds, while the Greek was organized resistance, accuracy, coordination, diamond hardness and willingness to stand together as one compact rock before the onslaught of the ocean waves. Furthermore, the Persian spears were shorter and less stout, and could not reach the Spartans with ease. They fell by the hundreds, while the Spartans were barely injured. The best Persian officers fell when, going by the head of their troops, tried to inspire them and were wounded by Hellenic weapons. When Leonidas ordered to relieve the Spartans, passing other units into combat, the situation continued: the Persians fell massacred. It is said that three times Xerxes jumped from his throne to see what was going on, perhaps as a football coach sees his team thrashed. Leonidas would only say, “the Persians have many men, but no warrior.”

General Hidarnes removed the contingent of Kysios and Medes, discovering a floor mangled with corpses. Then he made enter his immortals in combat, convinced that they would change the course of battle. Leonidas ordered his Spartans to be on the forefront again. The immortals advanced impassively on the bodies of their fallen compatriots and furiously rammed the phalanx. The Spartans suffered some casualties, but their formation did not break. For their part, the immortals were pierced by long spears and fell by the dozens, wounded and dead. Many fell into the waters of the Gulf of Malis, where many, for not knowing how to swim, or sunk by the weight of their weapons and armor, were carried by ocean currents and drowned.

The Spartans implemented their more tested and complicated tactics, demonstrating the perfect instruction they alone possessed. They opened gaps where unsuspecting enemies penetrated, only to be shut down and massacred by rapid spears poking from all sites. Other times they simulated panic and retreated in disarray, after which the Persians emboldened, pursued in disarray. But the Spartans, displaying their mastery in close order, turned quickly returning to phalanx form, each taking place at the last moment and terribly reaping the Persian ranks, sowing the ground with corpses and watering it with their blood. So passed a whole day. When evening came, the fighters retreated and had their rest. It was considered bad luck fighting at night (it was more difficult that the dead found their way to the afterlife). The Greeks were exhausted but in high spirits. The Persians, on the other hand, were fresher but their morale hit rock bottom. They must have wondered if they were as bad or if it was the Greeks who were so good.

The next morning the fight resumed. Xerxes commanded fresh Persians, hoping that maybe they made a dent in the exhausted Greek defenders. Nothing was further from reality: wave after wave, the Greeks massacred the enemy again. The terror began to spread among the Persians. Many times they tried to escape the Spartans, and the officers lashed them with whips to force them to combat.

At that point, Xerxes had to be amazed and desperate at the same time. Its fleet had failed to defeat the Greek fleet at Cape Artemision, and he could not outflank Thermopylae by sea. Then came the betrayal, the heroes’ curse. A local shepherd named Ephialtes asked to speak to Xerxes and, in exchange for a hefty sum of money, he revealed the existence of the road that skirted the ravine, in a process archetypally similar to what happened many centuries later in the fortress of Montségur of the Cathars. General Hidarnes, in command of the immortals, crossed the road guided by Ephialtes. When he saw at the distance a few Greeks ready for the fight, he hesitated and asked Ephialtes if they were Spartan. He told him they were Phocis, and Hidarnes continued. Since then, the die was cast: the Greeks were doomed. They were going to lose the battle to death.

Leonidas, meanwhile, received messengers (probably repentant Thessalians fighting under the Persians) who informed him how they would be surrounded by the enemy. The Greeks took counsel immediately. Leonidas knew already that he would lose the battle. He ordered all the Greeks to retire except his Spartans and the Thebans. The Thespians, led by Demophilus, decided to remain on their own will, and so they did, covering their small town with glory. When only Spartans, Thebans and Thespians remained (1,400 men at first, less than the casualties suffered during the fighting), the troops breakfasted. Leonidas told his men: “This is our last meal among the living. Prepare well friends, because tonight we will dine in Hades!”

The Greeks formed, this time together, the phalanx. Before them, the vast army; and the immortals to their rear. Instead of attacking the immortals to perhaps defeat them and fight their way to the withdrawal (which would be useless because it would open the Greek doors to the Persians), Leonidas ordered to attack the bulk of the Persian army, in a magnificent display of heroism and courage, with the goal of maintaining the fight for as long as possible and give time to Greece to prepare. They knew they were going to die in any case, so they chose to die heroically, showing an immense greatness. The Greeks were aware that this was no longer a resistance with hope, but a struggle of sacrifice in which the goal was a passionate and furious rush into the arms of glory; inflicting the enemy the greater damage in the process and delaying the invasion.

In the middle of combat, and having killed countless Persians, Leonidas fell. Around his body, a hellish turmoil was formed while Greeks and Persians fought for its possession. Several times he fell into enemy hands and several times he was recovered by the Greeks. Eventually the body was secured by the Spartans that, constantly fighting, retreated to the Phocaean wall.

At one point, the Thebans separated from the bulk of the Greek phalanx. For long instants they fought valiantly, but in the end, exhausted, crazed and looking lost, threw their weapons and spread their hands in supplication to surrender to the Persians who, in the adrenaline rush, even killed a few more. The rest of Thebes was captured. After the battle, the Persians would mark them on the forehead with hot irons and sell them as slaves. What helped them to surrender? What did they get? Life? A life of slavery and humiliation? Would it not have been better and more dignified to die in battle, fighting to the end?

The Spartans and Thespians, meanwhile, continued to struggle beside the Phocaean wall. Under pressure and shock loads the wall collapsed, crushing warriors of the two armies. Fighting continued, deaf and ruthless. Many fell exhausted and could not raise again. Others died pierced by the enemy metal. When finally Hidarnes appeared in front of the immortals, the few Greeks who remained, almost all Spartans, climbed a small hill to defend themselves more easily. They put their backs against a wall to avoid being completely unprotected. There were less than a hundred Greeks against at least 100,000 Persians (some say 150,000 and others speak of figures far higher). There, every Greek was facing more than a thousand Persians.

The time of final resistance witnessed the most flaming heroism of history. The last fight on the hill of Thermopylae has been the inspiration for countless works of art over centuries. Probably only Spartans were left. Almost all of them were wounded and bleeding from several wounds. Their spears were broken and their shields shattered, so they resorted to the sword. Those who were unarmed after breaking or losing the sword used rocks to hit the enemy, or fanatically rushed upon him to kill him with their hands or teeth, fist, choking, breaking, hitting, crunching, tearing and biting with superhuman ferocity, in a vicious and bloody melee. Were not these men possessed by the legendary holy wrath, that of the berserkers and the inspired warriors? They well could have asked: “Why do you fight, if you will lose? You are shattered, on the brink of death and closer to the other world than to Earth. Why do ye keep fighting?” But those were improper thoughts for heroes. Their behavior far exceeded anything in this world. Reason had been trampled under the feet of the Hellenic will, which squeezed at the maximum the forces from those heroes. It was a rage that came from the above. It was blind fanaticism; an invincible, visceral, red and instinctive feeling. It was a fight to the end.

The Persians failed to reduce those brave and, totally demoralized, retreated. Then their archers advanced, and loosed successive rains of arrows that finished off the resistant. A massive, imperial army of hundreds of thousands fighting dozens (probably around a hundred) of crazed Greeks, and still they had to beat them from afar because in melee they could never win!

When the last Spartan—exhausted, delirious and bleeding, with his mind set on his wife, his children, his country and the sky—fell riddled with arrows shot from a distance, the battle of Thermopylae ended. The Greeks had lost and the Persians won. The fallen had furiously slain themselves to the last man, gentlemanly consummating their oath of honor and eternal fidelity and ascended the steps of immortal glory. In a single battle those fallen men achieved a higher luminance than what a thousand priests and philosophers have achieved in lifetimes of dedication.

To imagine the fear that this slaughter of Persians injected into the heart of Xerxes, suffice it to say that he ordered the corpse of Leonidas to be beheaded and crucified. (Similarly, William the Conqueror viciously ordered to mutilate the body of King Harold after the Battle of Hastings against the Anglo-Saxons, who also defended themselves at a high point). This is much more revealing than it seems, since the Persians had the tradition to honor a brave, dead enemy. But Leonidas had shown him something too far above his respect, something terrifying that turned upside down all he took for granted and knew about the Great West. Other Greek corpses were thrown into a mass grave. Xerxes asked, beside himself in his trauma, if in Greece there were more men like those 300 Spartans. We can well imagine what he felt when he was informed that there were 8,000 Spartiates in Sparta, brave and trained as the 300 fallen.

Let us now do a little count of the battle of Thermopylae: 7,000 Greeks against (say) 250,000 Persians. The Greek side had 4,000 dead, including Leonidas, his 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians. But the Persian side had no more and no less than 20,000 people dead, including two brothers of Xerxes: Abrocomes and Hyperanthes. That is, an army thirty times smaller than the enemy inflicts losses five times greater than what themselves suffered. Proportionally this means a triumph of 150 to 1. Comment is superfluous, although we know that, after all, the cold numerical figures understand nothing of heroism and will.

What happened after the battle? Was the sacrifice in vain? What did the fallen get? Buying time for the naval fleet and the Greek counter-offensive. The Persians continued their march to Athens, finding it empty because its inhabitants had been evacuated during the fighting at Thermopylae. The Persians sacked and burned what they could. In the battle of Salamis in the same year of 480 BCE, the Greek fleet defeated the Persian in glorious combat. Xerxes had to retire with an important part of his army, for without the fleet, logistics and supply were precarious. He, therefore, left 80,000 Persians (some say 300,000) under the command of his brother, General Mardonius, to continue with the campaign.

A few months later, at the Battle of Plataea in 479 BCE, 5,000 Spartans along with their allies, under the leadership of King Pausanias of Sparta, decisively defeated the Persians and General Mardonius fell in combat. Persia was defeated. Greece won the Second Greco-Persian War. The sacrifice of Thermopylae, therefore, was not in vain.

The poet Simonides wrote a poem in honor of the fallen Spartans at Plataea. Below, an elegiac couplet:

O Stranger, send the news home to the people of Sparta that here we are laid to rest:
the commands they gave us have been obeyed.

What was the catastrophic possibility that Leonidas prevented? Had he withdrawn from the fight, the Persian cavalry would have attacked in mass and in the open, closing from behind and from the sides. Persia would have conquered all of Greece and probably a significant portion of Eastern Europe; perhaps even beyond the Balkans and the Danube. (At that time there was no Vienna that would stop it.) This would have been a disaster for all posterity of ethnic Europeans.

Before parting for the fight, Queen Gorgo, wife of Leonidas, asked: “What should I do if you don’t come back?” The short answer was: “Marry one worth of me and have strong sons to serve Sparta.” In the perpetuation of the race there is no acceptable pause. The road is inexorable and the mystery of the blood is transmitted to the new heirs.

The Battle of Thermopylae was archetypal. Leonidas (a Heracleid descendant, ancestor of the Spartan kings) fell on the spot where, according to tradition, Heracles had rushed to the waters to calm his inner fire. There a statue was placed of a lion (an animal whose skin Heracles put on and contained in it the same name of Leonidas). There is a simple inscription on a plate, “Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.”

Leonidas_monument

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 5:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sparta – XVI

A society in which corruption takes a hold is blamed for effeminacy: for the appreciation of war, and the delight in war, perceptibly diminish in such a society, and the conveniences of life are now just as eagerly sought after as were military and gymnastic honours formerly.

—Nietzsche, La Gaya Scienza


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Subsequent history of Sparta

All Spartan education was considered admirable by the peoples around Sparta, who greatly respected its courageous neighbor though sometimes as a foe. Plato himself, when he wrote his Republic refers to State measures which seem directly taken from the Spartan laws, because those laws inspired him and were also admired by Aristotle—with some reservation as to the supposedly totalitarian and tyrannical Ephorate. (However, at the time of Aristotle Sparta was no longer the same.) In a time when the Greek city-states were already in decline, voices were raised calling for the adoption of the Spartan model. They were the fascist of the age. Anyway, Spartan laws provided a stability that the other Hellene States never knew.

In the sixth century BCE, Sparta launched new conquests over the neighboring villages. About the attack on Tegea, Herodotus said that one of the reasons was that the Spartans sought the mythological bones of Orestes (son of the legendary King Agamemnon, leader of all Greeks in the Trojan War), considered one of the distant ancestors of the Spartan village. The Pythia of Delphi promised victory to the Spartans if they found the bones. And sure enough, they found them and won. They found no normal bones, but a skeleton of immense size, like the giant heroes alluded to by Homer.

In the aforementioned case of Tegea, the Spartans were bold not to annex it but establish a treaty, by which Tegea was to provide soldiers, weapons and other equipment, and teamed with Sparta to follow it in all its foreign policy strategies. In return, Tegea could remain independent. By similar policies, Sparta won the states around the Peloponnese, eventually including Argos, Arcadia and Corinth to the point that, after the invasion of the Persians in 490 BCE, Sparta was the greatest Hellenic power, well above Athens.

According to Herodotus, at the Battle of Plataea in 479 BCE 5,000 Spartans fought with 5,000 perioeci and 35,000 helots. Only the Spartans were consummate warriors, while others were forced to take up arms, and the huge number of helots (completely lacking in military training) were reduced to cannon fodder. In the period of greatest population, Sparta had 200,000 helots and 9,000 Spartan families. In 480 BCE there were a total of just fewer than 8,000 mobilized Spartan hoplites.

The Greek poet Aeschylus (525-456 BCE) put into the mouth of the mother of Xerxes: “I seem to see two virgins superbly dressed. One richly dressed in the fashion of the Persians; the other, after the manner of the Dorians. The majesty of both surpass the other women. Both a flawless beauty and of the same race” (The Persians). With this we see that even at that time there were individuals who were aware of the absurdity of these enmities in people of the same origin.

In 464 BCE a major earthquake hit Sparta that destroyed the gymnasium while the ephebes, the cream of the Spartan youth, were exercising, killing many of them. Diodorus Siculus exaggerated that about 20,000 Spartans died, as Plutarch did when saying that only five houses were left standing. However, the damage had to be large, and this tragedy helped the helots who, taking advantage of the disorder that the void created, initiated another revolt confident in their overwhelming numerical superiority over the Spartans. After the Messenian helots rebelled, the Laconian helots joined and even two perioeci communities: Thouria (in Messenia) and Ethea (in Laconia). Thus began the Third Messenian War, also known as the Mount Ithome rebellion.

The open rebellion was crushed by the Spartans effectively and without the slightest mercy. The spoils of the revolt were removed to Mount Ithome from which, under the Spartan siege, the Messenians were engaged for five years in a guerrilla war against the Spartans: also resorting to guerrilla tactics by using their fanatic “puppies” in selective hunting activities, repression and punishment. The Athenians sent to Sparta a military contingent of four thousand men led by the patriot and pro-Spartan Cimon to help them but the Spartans rejected the help, and the contingent returned aggravated to Athens in what is known as “the Ithome insult.”

After these five years, the Spartans, moved by a Delphic oracle, which advised to let go “the supplicants of Zeus Itometa,” let them escape the Peloponnese. The Spartan government further strengthened afterwards its severity toward those helots, while Athens endorsed a military pact with the fugitives, recognizing them not as helots but as representatives of a legitimate Messenian State under military occupation.

john_collier-1891-priestess_of_delphi

A priestess of Delphi

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 5:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sparta – XVII

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Should anyone ask me whether I think that the laws of Lycurgus still remain unchanged at this day, I certainly could not say that with any confidence whatever.

For I know that formerly the Lacedaemonians preferred to live together at home with moderate fortunes rather than expose themselves to the corrupting influences of flattery as governors of dependent states.

And I know too that in former days they were afraid to be found in possession of gold; whereas nowadays there are some who even boast of their possessions.

There were expulsions of aliens in the former days, and to live abroad was illegal; and I have no doubt that the purpose of these regulations was to keep the citizens from being demoralized by contact with foreigners; and now I have no doubt that the fixed ambition of those who are thought to be first among them is to live to their dying day as governors in a foreign land.

There was a time when they would fain be worthy of leadership; but now they strive far more earnestly to exercise rule than to be worthy of it.

Therefore in times past the Greeks would come to Lacedaemon and beg her to lead them against reputed wrongdoers; but now many are calling on one another to prevent a revival of Lacedaemonian supremacy.

—Xenophon, Constitution of the Lacedaemonians


The rivalry between Sparta and Athens eventually culminated in the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BCE). This war had a certain spiritual-ideological character: the Athenians saw Sparta as a state of brutality, oppression of the individual and uncompromising stiffness; while, for the Spartans, Athens was a hotbed of decadence and effeminacy that threatened to contaminate all Hellas. In 415 BCE, Spartan emissaries came to the sanctuary of Delphi. The oracle gave them a grim omen: soon the Spartans would see the walls of their worst enemy reduced to rubble, but they themselves would soon succumb to a bitter defeat. This was perhaps the first warning about the coming decline of Sparta.

Lysander, head of the Spartan fleet, effectively defeated the Athenian Alcibiades in 404 BCE, and awarded the victory to his homeland. After long and painful years of siege, hardships, and battles against Athens, when finally Sparta triumphed Lysander simply wrote in his memoirs, in another sign of brevity: “Athens has fallen.” Lysander was a mothax (bastard or mestizo), for his father was a Spartan and his mother a helot. However, during his childhood, he was accepted for some reason in the brutal training system of the Agoge. Lysander was, however, a soldier turned politician and conspirator, and stroked ideas about a new revolution in Spartan laws. The mere fact that an individual like Lysander had reached such a high position implied that something was starting to smell rotten in Sparta.

The war resulted in the ruin of Athens, consolidating the Spartan hegemony. That same year 404 BCE the walls of Athens were demolished to the sound of Spartan fifes, as predicted in Delphi, and the government of Athens was taken by “the thirty tyrants.” But Spartan supremacy would be short because it had been achieved at the sacrifice of the best Spartan blood and, as has been said, dark forebodings hovered over the city. Their numbers dwindled. The hardness of the Spartans increasingly produced hatred by the subjected people, which multiplied devilishly. Sparta was aging.

On the other hand, Sparta was usually very jealous about its citizenship laws (to be the son of a Spartan father and mother, and going through eugenics, instruction and admission to the Army Syssitias), so that with the advent of crossbreeding and bloody wars, in which the best Spartans fell, the number of real Spartiates was reduced from 10,000 during its apogee to just over a thousand, although at least those few Spartans remained just like their ancestors. They’d chosen to be, at all costs, a select few at the top, dominating an inferior majority and remaining loyal to the laws of Lycurgus until the end of their national agony. As a select group, they were obstinate in resisting and refused to make concessions or share privileges, remaining increasingly proud as their numbers were declining more and more. All this demographic policy contrasted, then, with the Athenian: which artificially swelled the numbers of its population (Athens had about five times the population of Sparta) by non-white immigration, uncontrolled reproduction and lack of eugenics.

populated-AgoraThis resulted in dirty and dingy slums and narrow winding streets, where dark slaves accumulated and infections, rats and pests spread. The defeat of Athens also motivated the circulating of riches as trophies to Sparta. Plutarch wrote, “gold and silver money first flowed into Sparta, and with money, greed and a desire for wealth prevailed through the agency of Lysander, who, though incorruptible himself, filled his country with the love of riches and with luxury, by bringing home gold and silver from the war, and thus subverting the laws of Lycurgus.”

In 398 BCE, King Agesilaus ascended to the twin throne of Sparta. A year later, another evil omen happened. While a priest carried out a sacrifice, horrified, he glimpsed a nefarious, archetypal sign during the ritual and announced with great alarm that Sparta was on the lookout for its enemies. At that moment, according to the old man, Sparta was seriously threatened. In view of the prostration of external enemies, the omen was probably not taken with the seriousness it deserved. Few would suspect that the omen was referring to the internal enemies of Sparta.

Agesilaus discovered a year later, in 397 BCE, a conspiracy hatched by Lysander against the laws of Lycurgus. In this conspiracy an individual named Cinadon played an important role. He was part of the hypomeiones or “inferior” Spartan citizens degraded for cowardice in battle; for failing to provide the stipulated rations of the Syssitia, or for not having being admitted to any Syssitia due to any dishonorable reasons. The point of this conspiracy is that it seemed to involve all those who were not authentic Spartans, i.e., helots, perioeci, and the degraded Spartans—all of which, according to the same Cinadon, wanted to “eat raw” the elite of the real Spartans. Having made their confessions, Cinadon and his clique of conspirators were driven through the city of Sparta to spearhead and under the harassment of the whips. After being carried to Kaiada they were executed and thrown into the pit.

Agesilaus was accused of breaking an old Lycurgus law prohibiting to make war for a long time to the same enemy so that he could not learn how to defend himself, as Agesilaus’ incursions into Boeotia practically taught the Thebans to fight. In 382 BCE Sparta took Thebes, but this victory was cursed as Sparta had decayed and the Thebans were being strengthened. Four years later, the Thebans succeeded in expelling the Spartans in the first political sign that Sparta was decaying. Years later, 7,000 highly motivated Thebans under the charismatic leader Epaminondas rose against Sparta and defeated them at the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BCE. In that battle only 1,200 Spartans fought: all that remained of them. Four hundred of them died. It was said that when the Theban soldiers entered in Sparta during the street fighting that followed, and they were asking, “Where are the Spartans?” and an old man answered, “There are not anymore, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.”

After the invasion, the intelligent Thebans stroke another huge blow to the power of Sparta: they freed the helots. The city of Messenia, in a record time of only seventy-four days, was surrounded by a wall and the Ithome Fortress rebuilt and converted in an acropolis, symbolizing its emancipation from the Spartan yoke: an emancipation they sought to preserve at all costs.

maxfield-parrish_1The Spartans had fallen, but the Thebans had kept their blood and vitality pure. They had an elite unit called the sacred gang. Throughout Greece, Theban women (described by Dicaearchus as blondes) were already considered, above the Spartan, the most beautiful of Hellas. The Thebans descended from Thessalian invaders: magnificent horsemen that arrived to Greece at the time of the great invasions. After being expelled from the Peloponnese by the Dorians, they established their capital, Thebes, in Boeotia. The Battle of Leuctra finally consummated the Thessalians’ revenge against the Dorians.

Since 640 BCE no army had ever managed to subdue Sparta. The Spartan power was over. Its laws of iron and stone—wisely enacted and recorded in blood and fire—could not eternally restrain racial miscegenation while in disastrous wars died the best biological specimens and the spiritual elite. There was betrayal, disloyalty, memory loss, and a fall. From here, the history of Sparta is shameful, desperate, sad and tragic. One almost feels embarrassed before her in contrast to her previous heroism. It could be said it was humiliating for their heirs, but we must add that many of them were no longer heirs of Dorian Sparta since it no longer ran in their bodies the most important heritage: pure Dorian blood.

The racial miscegenation and the fratricidal war with Athens had greatly weakened many Greek city-states, so that they fell prey to the Indo-European new star: the Macedonians of Philip II (382-336 BCE), a Greek village that had remained on the periphery of Greece living in semi-barbarian state, retaining the hardness of its origins and purity of blood. Using the Thessaly League, the Macedonians began to penetrate gradually in Greece. In 367 BCE the Aetolian League was formed. In 339 BCE the Macedonians had already mastered Hellas, including Sparta. The son of Philip II, the famous Alexander the Great, conquered the greatest empire ever known, from Greece to India, and from the Caucasus to Egypt.

In 330 BCE, King Agis III of Sparta attacked Antipater, Alexander’s lieutenant, but was defeated and killed at the battle of Megalopolis. During the Lamian War, after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE, Sparta was too weak even to participate.

During the fourth century BCE there was a reform by an Epitadeus, an ambitious ephor that, for disagreements with his own son, drafted a law that all citizens could give their inheritance to whom they pleased. This had huge influence on the distribution of land plots. However, the subsequent ruin of Sparta was not the result of this law; the wording of it was the result of a silent decline of mind and body, materially manifested in blood contamination, the disintegration of the noble families and the evils resulting from this.

During this decadent time of miscegenation and corruption, women’s freedom turned against Sparta. Traditionally being owners and managers of the farm and home, they became greedy and selfish. The materialism that invaded Sparta from Athens took root in women with ease. They forgot their athletic naturalness; the physical exertion, and their role as severe mothers; they also forgot the gravity of the sacred wife and to inspire hope and contemplation. Instead they embraced luxury, comfort and embellishments. Foolishly, during the decay Spartan women came to hoard most of the wealth of Sparta.

By the end of the fourth century BCE Sparta was surrounded by defensive walls, breaking her tradition and revealing the world that had lost confidence in herself.

Agis of Sparta (reigned between 244-241 BCE) attempted to reinstate the laws of Lycurgus. He had been educated in patriotism and dreamed in restoring the greatness of his country. By then, lots of land were unevenly distributed and badly exploited, and he wanted to make it more equitable. Agis postponed land redistribution to join the Achaean League Aratus of Sicyon, challenging the growing power of the Macedonians. In 243 BCE, the Achaean League defeated the Macedonian garrison in Corinth, resulting in a brief expansion of the league. But during the king’s absence, resistance to his reforms was implemented by his co-ruler, King Leonidas II. This traitor king, unworthy of his name, was the perfect example of Spartan decline: he married a Persian woman and liked to keep in his court an oriental-style luxury which would have caused his death when Sparta was in its prime. As Agis returned he was arrested by the ephors who, now completely corrupted, condemned him to death. Agis was thus the first king of Sparta to be executed by the government.

In 230 BCE only 700 Spartans were left: divided, confused and aimless. The differentiation of castes and racial barriers had collapsed. The plots of land were in the hands of women who managed them greedily, and of helots who owned their own land. Plutarch wrote:

Thus there were left of the old Spartan families not more than seven hundred, and of these there were perhaps a hundred who possessed land and allotment; while the ordinary throng, without resources and without civic rights, lived in enforced idleness, showing no zeal or energy in warding off foreign wars, but ever watching for some opportunity to subvert and change affairs at home.

Cleomenes III of Sparta (reigned 235-219 BCE) attempted to make another return to the laws of Lycurgus. His goal was to create a group of Spartans that restituted the ancient power of the city. After a series of encouraging alliances with Tegea and the recovery of Manatee from the Arcadians, Sparta seemed to be reborn as opposed to the Achaean League. Spartan austerity was reestablished as well as the team meals, and defeated the Achaean League in 228 BCE, on the banks of the river Lyceum. And in 227 BCE Sparta defeated it again near Leuctra. The victorious Cleomenes returned to Sparta covered with prestige. He executed the corrupt ephors and abolished the institution of the Ephorate. Sparta continued to conquer and triumph: it annexed Manatee and in 226 BCE defeated the Achaean League again in the Battle of Hecatombaeon. This time, supported by Egypt, Sparta was literally re-conquering the Peloponnese.

The leaders of the Achaean League, frightened by the revival of the legendary Spartan power, decided to end its anti-Macedonian policy and cynically requested the Macedonians’ help to deter the new Spartans. So Aratus of Sicyon sought help from his supposed enemy, the king Antigonus III of Macedonia, offering control of Corinth. The Aetolian League and the Macedonian League, united, gathered an army of 30,000 men who beat the 10,000 Spartans and their allies in the Battle of Sellasia of 222 BCE. There definitely Spartan power was extinguished; the new Spartans fell, their walls demolished, and Cleomenes exiled to Alexandria. After trying from there a coup with the help of Egypt, he died in 220 BCE. With him the royal Heracled lineage disappeared.

Both Agis IV and Cleomenes III are tragic figures: men of quality who were born too late, representing the dying voice of the Spartiate archetype during the sinister sunset. However, these kings failed to understand the real cause of Sparta’s collapse: the luxuries of civilization and dissolution of the originating elements of Dorian blood that built Sparta.

In 208 BCE, Nabis, later known as “Tyrant of Sparta,” ascended the throne. Since the double lineage of the Heracletes had disappeared with the king Cleomenes III, he made himself the sole king of Sparta, building again the defensive walls that surrounded Sparta and trying to revitalize the reforms attempted by Agis IV and Cleomenes III. Nabis introduced, with the help of the Aetolian League, a kind of democracy in Sparta. This was his biggest mistake: it gave freedom to many helots, who would soon mix their blood with the Spartans. The mothakes (mestizos) began to influence the very Spartan national body, and neodamodeis or “new citizens” emerged.

In 205 BCE Sparta allied with Rome in the hope of removing the Macedonians. But in 197 BCE Rome turned against Sparta, establishing an alliance with other Greek states. The Achaean League of 192 BCE forced Sparta to join her to monitor its movements, but when Nabis felt that the League had overreached its affairs he seceded. Philopoemen led the Achaean army that burst in Sparta and executed the anti-Achaean leaders, including Nabis, knocking again Sparta’s walls; freeing the slaves, and abolishing the Agoge. Everything that in this period the Achaeans did against Sparta was an expression of the unconscious terror they felt about the possible resurrection of Sparta’s power and it was then, when Sparta was weak, that they wanted to finish it off to prevent any future outbreaks.

In 146 BCE Sparta was conquered by the Roman legions. Under Roman rule, some Spartan customs survived, but stripped from their essence. The festival of Artemis became a grotesque ceremony of simply whipping children in public, sometimes to the death. In the tranquility of the Pax Romana Sparta was devoted to these abhorrent practices, which attracted large numbers of morbid tourists around the Mediterranean.

In 267 CE Sparta was sacked by the Heruli Germanic people—the same people who would depose the last Roman emperor of the West two centuries later. The Germans were the new star of Europe, and they would be for many centuries. Their uncontaminated will to power together with their barbaric mentality drove them to conquer and dominate. During this time they were rushing into a Roman Empire already decadent and beyond recognition, in which Christianity was inevitably undermining the sacred pillars of the pagan, militarist and patriarchal society that the Romans once had.

After the Roman disaster against the Goths at the Battle of Hadrianople (378 CE), the Spartan phalanx defeated a band of marauding Germans in a flash of strength. But in 396 CE Sparta was destroyed by the Visigoths of King Alaric I, who ended up being in charge of administering the coup de grace to an already unrecognizable Roman Empire.

Near the ruins of Sparta it was built the town of Mistras. The Romans, after conquering Southeast Europe, built on Mistras a new city they called Lacedaemonia, as Sparta was called before. According to Byzantine sources, in the 10th century large areas of the territory of Laconia were still pagan.

Today Sparta is a set of simple, rough and not showy ruins. In the words of Thucydides:

Suppose the city of Sparta to be deserted, and nothing left but the temples and the ground-plan. Distant ages would be very unwilling to believe that the power of the Lacedaemonians was at all equal to their fame… Whereas, if the same fate befell the Athenians, the ruins of Athens would strike the eye, and we should infer their power to have been twice as great as it really is.

archaeological-site-of-sparta

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 5:57 pm  Comments (3)  

Sparta – XVIII

“I think that civilization tends more to refine vice than perfecting virtue.”

—Edmond Thiaudière


sparta


The lesson of Sparta


A nation as exceptional as Sparta, which ravaged its enemies in an era when man was infinitely harder than now; a nation that was feared in “an age that everything grinds and splashes of blood” had an exceptional mission: to point out a path to us, the children of the West and therefore heirs of Sparta. That was the purpose of Lycurgus, and the Delphic Sibyl grasped it as soon as she saw these peoples, sanctifying their mission. But Sparta also signaled to us the only weakness of such a civilization, so that its decline may be a lesson for us, so that the great pain of Spartan discipline and military asceticism had not been in vain.

What happened to Sparta has happened to every civilization: it succumbed to the multiracial curse, the gold of the traders, the corruption of women, the softness of men, the relaxation, the luxuries and the fratricidal wars; although the laws of Lycurgus extended their glory and agony. The best and bravest men in Greece were finished. Then its body was trampled by purer and more vigorous and youthful peoples.

But what is the moral of the story? That the awakening of European humanity, as once the awakening of Sparta, can occur only after the advent of a terrible racial trauma that acts as an initiation of the sort of a “mystical death.” Who will give Europe the dreaded initiation?

Sparta also teaches us something that we can not afford, something we should avoid at all costs, that quality men die without leaving abundant offspring: pure, protected and cultivated; procreated with congeners of identical racial quality. To cultivate the best blood is the solution. Having a garden perfectly ordered and distributed is the solution. And Sparta was successful for a long time, but ended up failing. And it fell gnawed at its roots from the inside.

If today, therefore, we had to ask which country is more like Sparta in terms of its strategic location and methods, only Israel could give an answer. Jewry has realized that losing their head and being seduced by the confidence that overwhelms the victor is the moment of greatest danger, and therefore has established something so outrageous and incomprehensible at first glance as the State of Israel. Despite having conquered the West, thanks to Israel Jewry can even afford to be in an environment of danger and war. There, the enemy lies inside and constantly threatens to attack. There, only the oppression of the Palestinians and keeping themselves in perpetual guard ensures their safety and mentalizing to avoid decay. There they have a fanatical, hysterical, heavily armed and militarized people, surrounded by hostile neighbors that increase even more their paranoia, their racism, their self-defense mentality and eagerness to compensate, through quality, their numerical inferiority: feeding a feeling to be alone with the danger—an absolutely false feeling as they have on their feet the media of almost all the West.

Compared to the barbarism prevailing in the slums and shanty towns of the Third World; the Asian corporate organizations in the East, the troglodyte immigrants on the streets of the West, and the barbaric state consolidated in the State of Israel, the West appears to be extremely soft, old, head down, sissy, with no instincts or spine, and doomed. Today, the West transits its most vulnerable stage and this condition is increasing at accelerated pace. Our civilization will not be saved if it cannot awaken its primal instincts.

The Spartans were heirs of an archetype: the archetype of the European military state, of the ranks of disciplined troops; of pride, honor, austerity and sacrifice. The archetype, as we have said, would be inherited by others throughout history: such as the Romans, the Templars, the Spanish, the English and the Germans. The Spartans thus formed part of the lineage of giants of the West and of human genius. In their case, they had the privilege of being no more or less than a sole and united people.

Let us compare today’s Europeans with the Spartans. We feel panic in finding such physical, mental and spiritual degeneration; such stultification. European man, who used to be the hardest and most courageous of Earth, has become a weakling rag and degenerated biologically as a result of comfort. His mind is weak; his spirit fragile, and on top of that he considers himself the summit of the creation. But that man, just because of the blood he carries, has enormous potential.

The rules on which Sparta was seated were eternal and natural, as valid today as yesterday, but today the dualistic mens sana in corpore sano has been forgotten: the physical form has been abandoned producing soft, puny and deformed monsters; and the mental poisoning has produced similar abominations in the realm of the spirit. The modern European knows no pain, no honor, no blood, no war, no sacrifice, no camaraderie, no respect or combat; and thus he does not know the ancient and gentle goddesses known as Illumination, Gloria or Victoria.

All European revivals were inspired by the Greco-Roman or classical European spirit, of which the Spartan archetype was the most accomplished and refined expression. Sparta’s immutable laws remain as valid today as yesterday, just waiting for someone to have the wisdom to obey them.

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 5:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sparta – XIX

“Ye could well create the Overman. Not perhaps ye yourselves, my brethren! But into fathers and forefathers of the Overman could ye transform yourselves: and let that be your best creating!”

Thus Spake Zarathustra


sparta


The survival of the Spartan archetype


The Spartans were heirs of an archetype: the archetype of the European military state, of the ranks of disciplined troops; of pride, honor, austerity and sacrifice. The archetype, as we have said, would be inherited by others throughout history: such as the Romans, the Templars, the Spanish, the English and the Germans. The Spartans thus formed part of the lineage of giants of the West and of human genius. In their case, they had the privilege of being no more or less than a sole and united people.

Let us compare today’s Europeans with the Spartans. We feel panic in finding such physical, mental and spiritual degeneration; such stultification. European man, who used to be the hardest and most courageous of Earth, has become a weakling rag and degenerated biologically as a result of comfort. His mind is weak; his spirit fragile, and on top of that he considers himself the summit of the creation. But that man, just because of the blood he carries, has enormous potential.

The rules on which Sparta was seated were eternal and natural, as valid today as yesterday, but today the dualistic mens sana in corpore sano has been forgotten: the physical form has been abandoned producing soft, puny and deformed monsters; and the mental poisoning has produced similar abominations in the realm of the spirit. The modern European knows no pain, no honor, no blood, no war, no sacrifice, no camaraderie, no respect or combat; and thus he does not know the ancient and gentle goddesses known as Illumination, Gloria or Victoria.

All European revivals were inspired by the Greco-Roman or classical European spirit, of which the Spartan archetype was the most accomplished and refined expression. Sparta’s immutable laws remain as valid today as yesterday, just waiting for someone to have the wisdom to obey them.

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 5:54 pm  Comments (1)