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Sunday, January 27, 2013

A History Ancient Sparta - Professor Timothy B. Shutt

A History of Ancient Sparta lectured by Professor Timothy B. Shutt is an excellent set of lectures about the history and culture of ancient Sparta.

Sparta is perhaps best known, especially in recent years due to a hit movie, for the 300 soldiers who took a stand at Thermopylae against the Persian army. This is appropriate, since Sparta itself was a military state.

Citizens of Sparta, both males and females, were inspected at birth for any physical deformities. If they were not healthy, they would be left to die. Once boys reached the age of seven they would leave the house to train in the agoge to become soldiers. While girls did not participate in the formal agoge like the boys, they did participate in a kind of training themselves with the daily exercise. Upon becoming adults, both men and women were expected to participate in the daily public exercise.

Spartan citizens, there were several castes of them, did not do any labor. All of their time was devoted to training. They instead owned land and slaves, who would tend the animals and crops, and give a certain percentage over to their overlords.

This was a grim culture, yet it did have a sensitive side. The boys and men would sing and dance during feast days. In fact, during festivals they were known to forego battles in fear that they would displease the Gods.

The place of women in Sparta was unusual compared to the rest of the world at the time; in fact, the only women who had it better were those who lived in Germanic and Norse tribes. Women were allowed to own property in Sparta. It was this loophole that allowed a woman from Sparta to win the Olympics. Women were not allowed to participate in the Olympics, but as a land holder, she had the right to participate. Syniska is the only woman to have ever won in the Greek Olympics.

There is a lot more to Spartan culture to be learned from this series of lectures, and I recommend it to anybody who desires to do so. There is also an accompanying book to the lectures, which contains the information from the lectures, as well as citation and suggested books by the professor.

Recommended Lectures:
The Vikings by Professor Kenneth W. Harl
Celts and Germans by Professor Timothy B. Shutt

Recommended Viewing:
Last Stand of the 300: The Legendary Battle at Thermopylae - History Channel
300 2007

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