Sparta

Sparta is located on the sweeping Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece in the Laconian region. In ancient times the Spartans were a clever and fierce society who trained their men from a young age to become unbeatable soldiers. The community was constructed on the Evrotas River banks in a valley creating natural shelter, aiding in Sparta’s short reign.

History & Wars Involving Sparta

History & Wars Involving Sparta
History & Wars Involving Sparta

As a society of hoplites (soldiers), the ancient Spartans were a fierce community who fought many a war and were undisputed rulers within Greece. With a location on the most southeasterly tip of the Peloponnese peninsula they had to conquer surrounding regions to gain absolute power. This led to the Messenian Wars of 750BC – 650 BC and includes the Battle of Caprysema and the Battle of Megaletaphrus. Throughout the centuries there were many other wars Sparta fought including the Argive, Arcadian, and Megaran Wars.  One of the most famous of all is the Trojan War in which Helen was taken by Paris of Troy from King Menelaus of Sparta She was famously referred to as Helen of Troy following her abduction.

Battle of Thermopylae

Battle of Thermopylae
Battle of Thermopylae

One of the most famous Spartan battles is the Battle of Thermopylae in which just 300 Spartan hoplites staved off a massive Persian army, saving the entire Greek nation from being conquered and dominated. The son of ruling Persian Darius, King Xerxes, swore to avenge his father’s loss at hands of the Athenians at the Battle of Marathon, thus constructing an army of 150,000 soldiers and 500 ships to invade Greece. Spartans, Athenians and more than 25 other Greek city-states became well-prepared for battle under leadership of King Leonidas of Sparta but with only 10,000 men. Four days passed while the Persians, incredulous of the tiny Greek army’s unwillingness to surrender, launched a major attack. The Persians secretly attacked from the rear, having received word of the clandestine route by a Greek traitor. King Leonidas learned of the deception; he had just 300 soldiers seemingly retreat and then furiously turn back to hold the pass allowing just enough time and distraction for the rest of the Greek army to retreat into the south of Greece to safety. The 300 heroes left behind fought until their deaths. It is ancient Sparta in the well-known scene from the Hollywood blockbuster 300 This is Sparta.

Spartan Society

Spartan Society
Spartan Society

The warrior society of ancient Sparta was one reaching the pinnacle of power following victory in the Peloponnesian War in which the Spartans defeated Athens. Focused on loyalty, Spartan society was dedicated to the state and to serving in military service. The state sponsored education for Spartan boys reaching the age of seven, providing military training and education along with socialization. This system was called the “Agoge,” and emphasized discipline, duty, and endurance. The women of Sparta enjoyed more freedom than others in Greece and, though not part of any military associations, were highly educated with high statuses. With such a dedication in time to military training, labor was chiefly carried out by the Helots, a class of slave people. Though exceptionally skilled in warfare, the Spartan empire went into major decline when defeated in the Battle of Leuctra by Thebes.

Archeology of Ancient Sparta

Archeology of Ancient Sparta
Archeology of Ancient Sparta

Several of Greece’s city states arose in its Classical period including Sparta, Corinth, Athens, and Thebes. In the beginning, Sparta was a series of smaller villages spread over and expansive, rural backcountry. A large acropolis was built in Sparta which housed an agora (market), stoa, and theater as well as a sanctuary of Artemis and a temple dedicated to Athena. This was located about 25 miles from the Aegean in the Eurotas Valley. Ancient Greek historian Herodotus called Sparta as the champion of the Peloponnesian War, lasting between 4 and 404 BC. It is documented Sparta aimed to gain control over Greece in its entirety. Since the later 19th century, Sparta has been explored by British and American schools and the Greek Service in more recent times.

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