The Spartan Life and Culture
Spartans were completely focused on their military. It was their entire way of life. The training of a Spartan started at birth. The newly born Spartans were inspected by the committee of elders. If considered weak, the baby was left to die by exposure to the slope of Mount Taygetos. The babies that survived this were brought up in a special way. At the age of seven, a boy Spartan was brought under the direct control of the city. This remained for the rest of that Spartan's life. The Spartan boys were taught reading and writing for their basic needs, but the rest of their knowledge was dedicated entirely to training to fight.
The food was rationed, forcing Spartan kids to steal. If caught, they were whipped. This punishment wasn't because they stole, but because they did it carelessly and unskillfully.
At the festival of the goddess, Artemis Ortheia, the older boys were required to take part in a competition. In this competition, they had to snatch as many cheeses as they could from the steps of the altar, up to the goddess. This competition wasnít what one would call safe. In order to snatch these cheeses, one would have to pass through many guards with whips who were instructed to use them as hard as possible. Some of the youth died as a result of the whipping.
Although Spartan girls did not go through military training, they were educated. This education was not academic, but it was physical. Their education also involved being taught that they should dedicate their lives to the state. In a way, the Spartan women were lucky. Spartan women were free to move around where they wanted. However, in most Greek states, women were required to stay indoors all of the time.
The harsh training continued through manhood. No Spartan was free to live as he wished. Their city was like a giant military camp. If a Spartan was not assigned a duty at the time, the Spartan would watch the boy and teach them something useful, or they would learn themselves from the elder Spartans. Spartan were also forbidden to travel abroad, unless on instruction. This was because they didnít want any Spartanís minds to become corrupted by foreign ideas.
The Spartan Constitution
The Spartan constitution was very carefully thought of. Sparta had two kings. This way, one king could prevent the other from gaining too much power. If the Spartan army was to fight outside of Sparta, only one king would be allowed to go as its commander. If this werenít so, there would be too much of a risk of having both kings die. Even though these kings lead Sparta, they were considered less important than the ephoroi (overseers), five magistrates elected annually from the people. Every month, the kings and ephoroi exchanged oaths. As long as the kings swore to govern Sparta by the law, the ephoroi would ensure that the kingship was unharmed.
Ephoroi had the power to judge the kings. They could summon the kings before them to explain their conduct. The ephoroi even had the power to fine and arrest the kings.
Another strong influence of the Spartan government was the counsel. This consisted of twenty-eight men over the age of sixty. The counsel members were elected for life from ancient families. The final part of the government was the assembly. This included the people, adult males. The assembly had the power to accept or reject proposals put before it. If the people made a crooked decision, the kings and elders would have the power to take the situation.