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Sparta’s ‘no’

Posted October. 22, 2019 07:31,   

Updated October. 22, 2019 07:31


In a time when travelling in Europe used to be a rarity, a Western history major was asked if the person had ever been to Sparta. The answer was “no need to visit.” He said that Sparta is left with nothing while Athens is full of heritages. From a perspective of a tourist, it makes sense given that there seem few tourist attractions in the city. You can only see the site where the Temple of Artemis stood, which is surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. Only several stone blocks in olive trees tell you where an agora was situated in the past.

What we see today’s Sparta was rehabilitated in the 19th century. As its neighboring city Mystras prospered in the Middle Ages, Sparta turned into a traceless rural area, which later managed to revive thanks to its past glory. In the fifth century B.C., Sparta served as a barracks with any splendor. Spartan teenagers lived in a barracks-like dormitory and ate hard dry bread and black-colored soup with pig blood.

If you had made a visit to the city then, it would have been still a dry and dull city. History explains why they maintained such a lifestyle. That is because they had to rule Helots that outnumber their populations. A visit to the city tells one more thing about their lifestyle. Sparta is located on a plain while Athens has the Acropolis that is a firmly closed fortress. Sparta could have taken advantage of Mystras with perfect conditions as a fortress. However, Spartan people instead built a city on a plain, which made it necessary for them to become stronger to rule their neighboring regions.

That explains where the Spartan education and training regime came from. Sparta could have found it more helpful to utilize geographical merits and fortresses. However, they might have believed that such tools would only weaken their mental strength, arguing that cutting-edge weaponry and perfect fortifications do not work if they lack in passion and courage.

It takes fighting spirits and passion even for well-equipped forces to achieve victory. Even with cutting-edge tactics in their hands, warriors are supposed to chant, “We are fighters,” rather than “We are better-equipped with weapons than you are.” That may be a lesson of all ages imparted by Sparta that refuses to provide visitors with mere sightseeing attractions.