Modern western civilization can trace its
roots to ancient Greece, with the foundations
for its military and government systems drawn
from two of the most legendary city-states
to ever exist: Athens and Sparta.
Athens would inspire Western civilizations
to rule fairly and espouse democratic ideals,
while Sparta would form the backbone of the
military traditions meant to defend that democracy.
But what was life really like in ancient Sparta?
Hello and welcome to another episode of The
Infographics Show- today we're asking, what
was life like for a Spartan warrior?
Spartan society was- well, spartan.
It was a civilization that eschewed luxury
and comfort in favor for discipline, precision,
Its men and women were wholly dedicated to
the Spartan military, with almost the entirety
of their effort spent every day in supporting
or strengthening Sparta's ability to wage
Spartan citizens weren't even allowed to engage
in trading, and coins were outlawed.
Every free citizen was equal, there was no
gender or wealth gap, as engaging in trade
or even making clothing and farming was seen
as work only fit for slaves to do.
There was no 1%, as there was no interest
in amassing wealth.
Sadly, there was also little interest in the
arts, science, or philosophy- unless it served
A Spartan soldier's life began at birth, with
the child inspected and discarded if found
to be physically or mentally handicapped in
When a child reached age 5 they would be inspected
once more, and killed if found to be unhealthy-
Sparta had no room for the weak.
At age seven male children were taken to a
local agoge- a sort of military academy/boot
From that moment on a Spartan child no longer
belonged to his parents, but rather to the
state as a whole.
At the agoge, Spartan children were purposefully
underfed and encouraged to steal food- only
to be severely beaten if they were caught,
but not because stealing was wrong, but because
they were in fact caught.
This was meant to teach them to be stealthy
and crafty, but also to endure hunger as they
may have to in the midst of a long campaign.
You didn't have to be caught doing anything
wrong to earn a beating though, as part of
a Spartan child's training in becoming a soldier
included routine and random beatings meant
to ensure they grew up tough.
Living in groups under the tutelage of an
older man, boys were encouraged to fight amongst
themselves to determine who was strongest-
although they were strictly taught to never
fight each other in anger or hold grudges.
This too was purely pragmatic rather than
philosophical, as it ensured that morale stayed
good amongst soldiers fighting side-by-side.
Spartan children were not given beds to sleep
on, and instead had to make their own from
tough reeds pulled from riverbanks by hand-
and forget about sheets or blankets.
At age 12 they were given only a single item
of clothing a year- a red cloak- and would
not earn shoes until graduating into military
service, going barefoot even in the middle
This would prepare Spartan soldiers for the
reality of life on the campaign trail, as
Spartans did not carry sleeping cots, tents,
or even blankets with them as they marched,
sleeping on the ground itself wrapped only
in their cloaks.
At age 12 a Spartan child was put under the
tutelage of an older soldier in a sort of
mentor relationship, although many other Greeks
often made claims about pederasty in Spartan
This one-on-one relationship was meant to
pass on knowledge and experience, as well
as build loyalty between soldiers and from
the young child to the state.
At age 18, a Spartan youth would then be initiated
into adulthood through a practice called the
Krypetia- a ritual seen as barbaric and brutal
by the rest of the civilized world.
During the Krypetia, Spartan teenagers formed
into small groups and were tasked with murdering
a number of slaves.
Sometimes blades were provided, other times
they were left to fend for themselves and
improvise weapons or murder with their bare
The teenagers would then look for the largest
and strongest of slaves, and ambush the slave
Weak slaves or female slaves were rarely targeted
as they were not seen as a great threat, and
thus it was the biggest and strongest who
were at risk of being murdered.
Though participants in a Krypteia could be
punished with beatings if caught, the beatings
were punishment not for the murder but for
actually being caught- slaves had no rights
or protections, and in fact every year the
ruling Spartan body would declare war on their
slaves so their murder was not seen as a murder,
but rather as a casualty in an ongoing war.
Considering that Spartans relied completely
on their slaves for everything from sewing
their clothes to trading with other city-states,
it may seem insane that murder of their own
slaves was encouraged and even mandated, but
for all their warrior might Spartans lived
in constant fear of their slave population.
Outnumbering normal Spartans 7 to 1, Spartans
were all too aware that a revolt could be
devastating to the city-state- and in fact,
it very nearly ended Spartan rule around 490
B.C. when slaves revolted and nearly overthrew
the Spartan government.
From that day on Spartans kept a very tight
leash on their slaves, and once even put wreaths
on the heads of 2,000 of their strongest slaves
and promised them their freedom- only to lead
them away to a temple and slaughter all of
At age 20, Spartans officially became part
of the army, but they were not allowed to
marry and lived together in barracks until
the age of 30.
During this time they also competed fiercely
with each other for entry into the Spartan
hippeis, the royal guard of honor of which
only 300 of the best warriors would be chosen
to accompany the king.
Also at age 20 Spartans were voted into one
of several public messes with votes cast by
members of those messes- think of it as pledging
to a fraternity the way college students do
today, only with far less partying and drinking
as most Spartans did not drink alcohol and
were warned against it from childhood.
For Spartans, alcohol and any other substance
that incapacitated you was seen as building
weakness, and slaves would often be forced
to get drunk on alcohol and then be publicly
humiliated so that Spartan children could
see the dangers of drinking.
Votes for entry into a mess had to be unanimous,
this would build a strong camaraderie between
the members of that mess and ensure cohesiveness
Spartans had until the age of 30 to gain entry
into a mess, after which if they still had
not gained entry they would be denied full
Spartan citizenship which meant they were
not allowed to vote or hold office.
Upon joining the army at age 20 Spartans drilled
day and night in battle formations.
Spartan armies made use of the dreaded phalanx
formation, in which rows of soldiers would
be stacked one after the other, with each
soldier's shield protecting the right flank
of the man next to him.
This created an impenetrable wall of bronze
bristling with spear points that was nearly
impossible to defeat as long as it held its
Yet as powerful as the phalanx was, if discipline
failed for even a second and the enemy forced
an opening, the entire formation would shatter,
leaving soldiers vulnerable and exposed.
This in essence was the entire point of Spartan
training: the phalanx must never break, and
in fact Spartan phalanxes hardly ever did.
With row after row of soldiers, each Spartan
would push his shield into the back of the
man in front of him, pushing the entire formation
forward and pressing into the enemy.
Those on the first three or four ranks would
stab out with their spears or hurl them at
the enemy, and if injured or cut down, the
man behind him would immediately take their
A living tank of bronze, leather, and human
muscle, the Greek phalanx was a thing to be
greatly feared- as the Persians would learn-
and few were more formidable than those made
up of Spartan men.
Spartan society revolved entirely around their
military might, and their adult life from
ages 7 to 60 was devoted entirely to training
While not at war, Spartans spent every waking
moment training and drilling, honing themselves
for future battles.
The ancient Greek historian Plutarch commented
that for Spartans war was seen almost as a
holiday, saying “Their bodily exercises
too were less rigorous during their campaigns,
and they were allowed a regimen less rigid.
They were the only men in the world for whom
war brought a respite in the training for
Yet brutally overseeing a population of slaves
that outnumbered them greatly, and routinely
rebelled against them, it's perhaps little
wonder that Spartans dedicated themselves
wholly to fighting.
In the end though, this myopic focus on fighting
would lead to Spartans influencing the military
traditions of the modern Western world, but
it would be their hated rivals- Athens- who
would truly be the shining beacon of philosophy,
science, and democracy that built a brighter
future for mankind.
Would you have liked to live in ancient Sparta?
Think you got what it takes to have been a
Also check out our other video, Life Of A
As always, don’t forget to like, share and
See you next time!
What was life like for a Spartan solider in ancient Greece? Was it anything like the movie "300"? In today's educational cartoon we are going back to the ancient times to look at how the warrior Spartans lived.
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