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Most Hardcore Soldier: Spartan

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08:06   |   Jul 21, 2019

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Most Hardcore Soldier: Spartan
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  • 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,
  • and obedience.
  • 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
  • war.
  • 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
  • the military.
  • A Spartan soldier's life began at birth, with the child inspected and discarded if found
  • to be physically or mentally handicapped in any way.
  • 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
  • camp.
  • 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
  • of winter.
  • 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
  • society.
  • 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 hands.
  • The teenagers would then look for the largest and strongest of slaves, and ambush the slave
  • when unawares.
  • 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 them.
  • 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 in battle.
  • 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 cohesiveness.
  • 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
  • place.
  • 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 and fighting.
  • 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
  • war.”
  • 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 Spartan warrior?
  • Also check out our other video, Life Of A Roman Slave!
  • As always, don’t forget to like, share and subscribe.
  • See you next time!

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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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