In ancient Greece, the great rival of Athens was Sparta. Sparta was a town in southern Greece. It was already there in the Late Bronze Age, and appears in Homer’s Odyssey as the kingdom of Menelaus and Helen. During the Dark Ages, Sparta declined like other Greek towns. In the early Archaic period, around 900 BC, Sparta began to grow again. Although most Greek towns got rid of their kings at this time, the Spartans kept their kings. In fact, the Spartans had two kings at the same time. The city-state and its surrounding territory were located on the Peloponnesus, a peninsula southwest of Athens. Sparta (also called Lacedaemon) was the capital of the district of Laconia.Sparta was one of the most powerful city-states in Ancient Greece. It is famous for its powerful army as well as its battles with the city-state of Athens during the Peloponnesian War. Sparta was located in a valley on the banks of the Eurotas River in the south-eastern portion of Greece.
The lands it controlled were called Laconia and Messenia. Unlike their counterparts in the city of Athens, the Spartans didn’t study philosophy, art, or theater, they studied war. The Spartans were widely considered to have the strongest army and the best soldiers of any city-state in Ancient Greece. All Spartan men trained to become warriors from the day they were born. The Spartan Army fought in a Phalanx formation. They would line up side by side and several men deep. Then they would lock their shields together and advance on the enemy stabbing them with their spears. The Spartans spent their lives drilling and practicing their formations and it showed in battle. They rarely broke formation and could defeat much larger armies. The basic equipment used by the Spartans included their shield (called an aspis), a spear (called a dory), and a short sword (called a xiphos). They also wore a crimson tunic so their bloody wounds wouldn’t show. The most important piece of equipment to a Spartan was their shield. The biggest disgrace a soldier could suffer was to lose his shield in battle. The city of Sparta rose to power around 650 BC. From 492 BC to 449 BC, the Spartans led the Greek city-states in a war against the Persians.
It was during the Persian Wars that the Spartans fought the famous battle of Thermopylae where 300 Spartans held off hundreds of thousands of Persians allowing the Greek army to escape. After the Persian Wars, Sparta went to war against Athens in the Peloponnesian War. The two city-states fought from 431 BC to 404 BC with Sparta eventually triumphing over Athens. Sparta began to decline in the coming years and lost the Battle of Leuctra to Thebes in 371 BC. However, it remained an independent city-state until Greece was conquered by the Roman Empire in 146 BC. Spartan girls lived at home with their mothers and fathers, instead of in dormitories, but they also learned to be tough, with plenty of exercise. The girls also learned to run houses, and how to spin and weave. But most of their work, like that of their brothers, was done by helot slaves.
Interesting Facts about Sparta
Boys were encouraged to steal food. If they were caught, they were punished, not for stealing, but for getting caught.
Spartan men were required to stay fit and ready to fight until the age of 60.
The term “spartan” is often used to describe something simple or without comfort.
The Spartans considered themselves to be direct descendents of the Greek hero Hercules.
Sparta was ruled by two kings who had equal power. There was also a council of five men called the ephors who watched over the kings.
Laws were made by a council of 30 elders which included the two kings.
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