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This is Lacedaemon!

16 May
Suddenly I feel like a Helot...

Suddenly I feel like a Helot…

Is this Lacedaemon? (Lacedaemon was the nation, Sparta was the chief city.)

Even in this less-than-literate age, most people have heard of Sparta, even though it declined before there was a Jesus. TPTB seem to like Sparta. There’s even a word for it–laconophilia. Even Adolf Hitler praised the Spartans: “The subjugation of 350,000 Helots by 6,000 Spartans was only possible because of the racial superiority of the Spartans.” What attraction does this ancient city-state hold for TPTB?  Count the ways…

Sparta, from it’s beginning, was a slave state. Every citizen was given a plot of land to own as long as he lived, and the land (and the slaves tied to it who did all the farmwork, called ‘helots’) would revert back to the state once the citizen died. This rather communistic idea was quickly abandoned, and Sparta always had huge inequalities in wealth distribution that grew as time passed. The government was always a secretive oligarchy–so secretive that the constitution of Sparta may never have been written down.

Sparta was always a militarist state, and its citizens were its soldiers. Full citizens of Sparta were forbidden to have anything to do with business, according to Xenophon. Sparta was not known for its libraries, temples, or philosophers, but for its total dedication to military affairs. Aristotle describes the kingship at Sparta as “a kind of unlimited and perpetual generalship,” as the king had few other duties.

A secret society for the young, the future citizen-soldiers, called the Krypteia (from the Greek word meaning ‘hidden’ or ‘secret’) ruthlessly eliminated any Helots that were considered objectionable, with a few random murders thrown in to keep the rest of the Helots in fear–a kind of state terror. Every year, the oligarchy declared war on the Helots so Spartan citizens could kill them without committing murder according to their laws.

The educational system was limited to what they thought made good soldiers. Real learning was banned. Plutarch: “They learned to read and write for purely practical reasons; but all other forms of education they banned from the country, books and treatises being included in this quite as much as men. All their education was directed toward prompt obedience to authority, stout endurance of hardship, and victory or death in battle.” On the plus side, this ‘education’ included women as well, unique among the Greeks at the time.

Spartan leaders encouraged citizens to have children, but all children were judged by government representatives, and if they were deemed unfit to live, the children were thrown off of Mount Taygetos. They had rather primitive ideas of eugenics, but such ideas were firmly entrenched. The founder of Sparta, Lycurgus, is reputed to have said “that the female should practice bodily exercise no less than the male sex,” and to say that a man should think it shame to be seen going in to his wife, or coming out from her. When married people meet in this way, they must feel stronger desire for the company of one another…and produce more robust offspring.” This extended to the Helots, but in reverse. The Krypteia often targeted ‘superior’ Helots working in their fields. Occasionally, things got even worse for the the Helots. Thucydides states: “The helots were invited by a proclamation to pick out those of their number who claimed to have most distinguished themselves against the enemy, in order that they might receive their freedom; the object being to test them, as it was thought that the first to claim their freedom would be the most high spirited and the most apt to rebel. As many as two thousand were selected accordingly, who crowned themselves and went round the temples, rejoicing in their new freedom. The Spartans, however, soon afterwards did away with them, and no one ever knew how each of them perished.”

Spartan citizens were constitutionally not allowed to use gold and silver coins, but instead were to use iron bars as currency. Spartan ‘fiat’ money was nearly worthless, troublesome to use in quantity, and not worth hoarding or stealing. [Link to a proposed bill to make U. S. coins out of steel (a durable kind of iron). Euro coins are already made of steel. Perhaps vending machines will stop accepting coins altogether, taking currency and credit-cards… changing over to cc-only, free video surveillance, for your protection, no extra charge. [BTW, the weaklypeedonya currently has this idiotic thing posted: “(…) archeology has not produced evidence of this currency, and it is more likely that Sparta simply used currencies minted elsewhere.” LOL! As if that could happen to a dominant state. Also, iron RUSTS. That’s one reason why glod and sliver are useful as money.] Wealth, for most citizens, was land ‘ownership.’ Such wealth was easily tracked by the Spartan oligarchy.

Perhaps because of their warlike education, the Spartans were reputed by many to be terse in their speech, saying little. [140 character limit of Twitter, cell phone texting, etc] Do U no Y ? Ignorance is Strength.

There is a well-known passage in Thucydides which runs thus: “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. Their city is not built continuously, and has no splendid temples or other edifices; it rather resembles a group of villages, like the ancient towns of Hellas, and would therefore make a poor show.”

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Posted by on Thu, 2013 in Rants

 

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