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THE MAKING OF EUROPE / EARLY EUROPEAN HISTORY

From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS

I. THE LANDS OF THE WEST AND THE RISE OF GREECE TO ABOUT 500 B.C.

Em. Macron, Rediscovering the Path to Europe
Em. Macron, Rediscovering the Path to Europe


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Page 20

GOVERNMENT OF SPARTA

Spartan government also had a military character. In form the state was a kingdom, but since there were always two kings reigning at once and enjoying equal authority, neither of them could become very powerful. The real management of public affairs lay in the hands of five men, known as ephors, who were elected every year by the popular assembly. The ephors accompanied the kings in war and directed their actions; guided the deliberations of the council of nobles and the assembly of freemen; superintended the education of children; and exercised a general oversight of the private life of citizens. The ephors had such absolute control over the lives and property of the Spartans that we may describe their rule as socialistic and select Sparta as an example of ancient state socialism. Nowhere else in the Greek world was the welfare of the individual man so thoroughly subordinated to the interests of the society of which he formed a unit.

THE SPARTAN BOY

Spartan education had a single purpose—to produce good soldiers and obedient citizens. A sound body formed the first essential. A father was required to submit his son, soon after birth, to an inspection by the elders of his tribe. If they found the child puny or ill-shaped, they ordered it to be left on the mountain side, to perish from exposure. At the age of seven a boy was taken from his parents' home and placed in a military school. Here he was trained in marching, sham fighting, and gymnastics. He learned to sing warlike songs and in conversation to express himself in the fewest possible words. Spartan brevity of speech became proverbial. Above all he learned to endure hardship without complaint. He went barefoot and wore only a single garment, winter and summer. He slept on a bed of rushes. Every year he and his comrades had to submit to a flogging before the altar of the goddess Artemis, and the hero was the lad who could bear the whipping longest without giving a sign of pain. It is said that boys sometimes died under the lash rather than utter a cry. Such ordeals are still a feature of savage life to-day.

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THE MAKING OF EUROPE / EARLY EUROPEAN HISTORY: Table of Contents

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Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy

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