Ancient SpartaIntroduction “Because of the arrows of the barbarians it is impossible to see the sun. Won’t it be nice, them if we shall have shade in which to fight them?” This was spoken by a Spartan soldier during the Battle of Thermopylae. Sparta was one of the greatest and most powerful civilizations in all of Ancient Greece, mainly due to the fact that they were solely a warrior society. They were highly feared for their great military and their advanced weaponry. In this essay I will be speaking of Sparta’s society, their military training, battle formations, equipment, and the Battle of Thermopylae.Spartan Society The city of Sparta was made up of three main groups of people: the Spartans, the Perioeci, and the Helots. The Spartans were the rulers and citizens of the state. The men of Sparta were bred to be soldiers, at the age of seven they were taken away from their families and they started their fierce training, known as “Agoge”. The women of Sparta birthed strong boys and girls, they were rewarded for producing many strong children, although you were better rewarded for having strong boys. They also had to care for their children and home. The women had much more rights than their counterparts in Athens and the other cities of Ancient Greece. While all of the men were out to war the women ensured that Sparta kept running. The Perioeci were neither citizens nor slaves. Their name meant “Dwellers Around”, they worked as blacksmiths, craftsmen, and traders. They provided the soldiers with their armour and weapons. The Helots, which name means “captives”, were a people of Greece originally from Messenia, and Laconia. However, according to the Greek geographer, Pausanias, the Helos came from the city of Helos. They were conquered by the Spartans, and taken as slaves. The Spartans way of life would not be possible without them. They devoted their lives to military training, athletics, war, and politics; they could not spend time on agriculture. The Helots were responsible for the food production. They performed all of the unskilled labor; they were military attendants, servants, nurses, and farmers. Since the Spartans were greatly outnumbered by the Helots, they would oftentimes treat them horribly in effort to prevent them from uprising. Spartans had the right to kill Helots for almost any reason; for being too educated, too physically fit, for showing signs of rebellion, and a number of other reasons. In the city of Sparta, you always had to prove yourself worthy. One was frowned upon for being overweight or unfit as an adult and risked being banished from the city altogether; Sparta only kept the strong. Even as an infant you had to show that you were worthy. All Spartan babies were brought to the council inspector to be examined if the baby had any disabilities or deformities. If the baby was seen as unhealthy, or unfit to become a soldier or a mother in their future years, they would simply leave the baby on a sacred hillside, where they would later die from exposure or to be adopted into a family of Helots. Even after the babies passed their first inspection they were faced with many challenges. They were frequently ignored when they cried and were made to never fear the dark or to be left alone.Military Training Sparta’s military was the strongest fighting forces in all of Ancient Greece and one of the most feared. Unlike other cities in Ancient Greece, Sparta was a military state and did not study philosophy, art, or theatre; they studied war. Male Spartans were only allowed one occupation, they could only be soldiers. Beginning at the age of seven, young Spartan boys were taken away from their families to live in the barracks. Here their training was initiated, their training know as “Agoge”. Agoge was a military academy, and part boot camp. Here they were treated very poorly and harshly, in effort to make them fierce, and strong. They were always being put in physical competitions, many of which involved violence. One competition was a test of mental toughness, this competition was a test to see who could withstand the great pain of a whip for the longest amount of time. The boys would have their families screaming at them not give up. The boy who lasted the longest was looked upon with great honour and respect. They were given very little rations of food so they would become skilled thieves. If a boy was caught in the process of stealing he would have been flogged. This taught them great survival skills, and it was also prepared them for the life of a strict soldier. Spartan boys who showed the most leadership had the chance of being invited to participate in the Krypteia, which was a secret police force. Their job was to kill those who who caused trouble and to terrorize the Helot population. Each year the magistrates chose three hundred of the best soldiers to become hippeis (elite soldiers who formed the king’s private guard). When a Spartan reached the age of twenty, he became a full time soldier, and remained a soldier until the age of sixty. Military Equipment The Spartans used their shields mainly for defence purposes; however they also used it as a blunt weapon. It was frequently used to knockdown or stun their target by bashing them, this would allow the Spartan to find a opening, and execute the target. The Spartan shield was known as a aspis, or a hoplon. Weighing in at fifteen to thirty pounds, the hoplon was quite heavy and large, measuring at about 36 inches in diameter. The hoplon was a round shield constructed out of wood and had a layer of bronze on its outerside. The shield was very important to them since it would have most likely been passed down from his father or even grandfather. To drop your ancestral shield and run in defeat, would have been seen as a disgrace. They lived by the motto “Either with this or upon this”. Meaning return with the shield, victorious; or return lying on it, dead. The primary weapon of the Spartans was a spear called a dory, which was 7 – 9 feet in length. The dory was held with one hand, while the other hand was being used to hold up the shield. The dory had a razor sharp leaf shaped spearhead, made out of iron. Its shaft was made of either cornel or ash wood, this wood was selected due to its great strength. The dory was tightly wrapped in leather for extra grip, and had an additional spike on the opposite end of the spear, known as a sauroter (meaning lizard killer). The sauroter was used as a counter balance and it was also used to plant the spear into the ground when not in use. While the Spartans were marching, he would use the sauroter to stab down at fallen victims to ensure they are not just wounded, but dead. The Spartans secondary weapon was a short sword called a xiphos. This weapon was presented once the spear became damaged or unfit for the current situation. This sword had an iron blade about 2 feet in length, but the Spartans had them crafted to be 1 foot long so that they would be more suitable for tight, and close up situations. The shorter weapon proved deadly in the crush caused by colliding phalanxes formations. They would use the xiphos through the gaps of their enemies shield walls, or it was used to stab them in unarmoured areas such as the groin, armpit, or the throat. On the other hand, Spartans had an alternative secondary weapon, known as a kopis. The kopis was a short sword with a thick curved iron blade. The kopis was intended to be used as a machete, to hack and slice rather than to stab. The results of the kopis were gruesome, giving it a horrible reputation associated with evil people. Athenian art oftenly illustrated Spartan warriors with this weapon.Battle Formations The Spartans had some of the best battle formations in all of Europe. Their most famous and effective formation was the phalanx. The phalanx allowed them to overcome battles that they were outnumbered in. The phalanx was essentially a shield wall, it worked as a tight, and compact formation. It was organised in rows of men with shields and spears. The front row of men would hold their spears outwards and the men in the back would push forward with their shields for additional force. After the front row of men were killed, the next row of men would take their place. This battle formation was most effective in narrow, straight fighting zones. The phalanx was unstoppable until the formation was broken apart.Battle of Thermopylae The year of 480 B.C. was when the Persians started their invasion of Greece. The Greek states were in fear and knew that they had to stop the Persians. These cities agreed that Sparta would lead the Greek army, as their reputation in war was better than any other Greek state. King Leonidas led seven thousand men into battle against the thousands of Persian warriors. According to Herodotus, a Greek historian, there were 2 million Persians, but modern historians have estimated the number being at about 70,000 – 300,000. Greece held off this point for two days until a Greek traitor told the Persian leader, Xerxes, a secret passageway. This passageway would allow the Persians to secretly travel through the mountains and come up behind the Greek army guarding the pass. The Persians then would effectively trap the Greek soldiers from the front and back. King Leonidas knew that Greece had been betrayed and told the other Greek soldiers to flee while they had the chance. King Leonidas allowed any man to leave the battlefield and to go back to their cities, but the Spartan men stayed and fought at his side. King Leonidas and his 300 men stayed and held off the pass against the Persians for three days, until they were wiped out.Conclusion In conclusion the Spartan military was arguably the most powerful and feared military in all of Ancient Greece. Their weaponry and battle formations were highly advanced compared to their rival, which gave them their great reputation in war. On the year of 480 B.C. the Persians attempted to invade Greece, until King Leonidas ordered the other armies to retreat from the battle. King Leonidas and his men stayed and fought till the death. To this day Sparta is still praised for their fierce military.