Were the Spartans really all they're cracked up to be? Or are they just a giant Greek meme?
they're a meme, but they also held hegemony for 200 years after winning the first Peloponnesian War
you also might know that the movie is based in a comic, which in part is Frank Miller's exaggeration of the spartan patriotism. biased narrator, you know
They're not exactly the absolute godly warriors they're portrayed as here, and they did heavily rely on troop formations just as much as other Greek states, which is also not portrayed here.
However on land they were arguably the most fearsome of the Greek city-states, and had an incredible record of military prowess. The Athenians refused to engage in combat with them on land, such to the point where they barricaded the entire city of Athens and closed its doors to the outside.
pic related: books on sparta
links i found
Sparta and Lakonia
They were the best for a while and had such a fearsome reputation that no one really wanted to fight them. However, they were so rigid in their military doctrines that when the other Greeks did reluctantly go to war they started to beat them more and more.
>After invading southern Greece and receiving the submission of other key city-states, Philip II of Macedon sent a message to Sparta: "If I invade Laconia you will be destroyed, never to rise again." The Spartan ephors replied with a single word: "If" (αἴkα). Subsequently neither Philip II nor his son Alexander the Great attempted to capture the city.
>When asked by a woman from Attica, "Why are you Spartan women the only ones who can rule men?", Gorgo replied, "Because we are also the only ones who give birth to men."
Basically, the Spartans were a society divided entirely into a small group of warriors served by brutalized slaves. The Spartiates were able to devote their lives to war because the Helots did all the actual work, and the only merchants and travelers were half-free resident aliens. Oh, yeah, that's another thing; only those resident-aliens were allowed to leave Sparta. Helots weren't, and Spartiates only could if they were sent to war by the state.
And, actually, that military culture that developed, the obsession with military training, developed because the Spartiates spent their days living in terror of the Helots realizing that they outnumbered their masters 20 to 1 and revolting. Actually, that was the basis of most of Spartan culture; training and perfecting the arts of killing for the Spartiates, and keeping the Helots too terrified and broken to fight back. IIRC, once the Helots were freed (by Phillip II of Macedon, I think? After he beat the Spartans) Sparta was reduced to being the shittiest shithole in Greece basically overnight.
But yeah, they were really good at fighting. Because they had to be, or they wouldn't have been able to keep their swathes of brutalized Helots in line. And also because they themselves did no trade or really much else except for war and obeying the state, and Sparta was basically a proto-North Korea.
>they're a meme, but they also held hegemony for 200 years after winning the first Peloponnesian War
Nope. They were buttblasted at Leuctra by Epaminondas and his 300 homos, ushering in the short era of Theban hegemony.
I don't think it can be said that the Lakedemonians were a hegemonic power until they defeated Athens totally in 404. From that time they were only in supreme control for 33 years.
>King Demaratus, being annoyed by someone pestering him with a question concerning who the most exemplary Spartan was, answered "He that is least like you."
>Sparta was the banter capital of Greece.
>fucking Epaminondas, how did he work
He put his elite troops on the left where they would face the Spartan elites. He also made their formation twice as deep so they could steamroll through. To keep his weaker right side from getting smashed right away he staggered it off backwards further away from the enemy front line. He also did something with his cavalry, which was superior.
>Those 300 in the Sacred Band didn't even meet the spartan formation head-on; they performed a flanking role, didn't they?
The Sacred Band was arrayed twice as deep. So when they came shield to shield with the Spartan elites they could just break the enemy line through weight of the pushing. Shield to back, shield to back, like a football scrimmage.
The Spartans were the most feared warriors in antiquity until the Hellenistic era. The Spartan constitution and culture, or idealized forms of them, were also deeply influential in the early and mid republican eras of rome.
no, that's a very lowball number
the Greeks had 80-100k at Plataea. The point of Thermopylae was that Xerxes was dropping the entire weight of Persia on them. Every single chronicler emphasizes the enormous army that he had.
>my bad, i'm terrible at math
No. 404-371. The period of Spartan hegemony.
How were the Spartans hegemonic in 505 BCE? They had the military reputation but they weren't a local hegemonic power. They were the great power of the Peloponnese peninsula, but not elsewhere.
Peloponnese League and how they buttblasted Athens several times along the 5th and 4th centuries BC, while at the same time keeping Darius and Xerxes on their side of Asia Minor
but yeah everything changed when the Nation of Thebes attacked
but yeah they never fully dominated the whole Hellenic League, so
They kept slaves and they had just as many homosexuals and bisexuals as any other city-state.
They did things differently. They were interesting. But democracy is superior to their duel kingships system.
They were extremely disciplined thanks to training from a very young age, and being professional soldiers.
Most soldiers in other armies had other duties outside of training. These men were born to protect their people and they were very effective and orderly.
I meant to ask if the Band had led the deepened formation (made up of more than just the band) from the front or if they had been detached from the greater body of Hoplites to attack the Spartan flank whilst the latter were engaged.
They seem to have simply led the charge:
> At this point the Theban left hit the Spartan right with the Sacred Band of Thebes led by Pelopidas[10
>Rüstow and Köchly, writing in the 19th century, believed that Pelopidas led the Sacred Band out from the column to attack the Spartans in the flank. Hans Delbrück considered this to be a mere misreading of Plutarch. Plutarch does indeed describe Pelopidas leading the band and catching the Spartans in disorder but there is nothing in his account that conveys anything other than the Sacred Band being the head of the column and the Spartans were disordered not because they were taken in the flank but because they were caught in mid-manoeuvre, extending their line.
STAY OUT OF MY SUNLIGHT