History Sparta bashing

Lord Sovereign

The resident Britbong
There’s a very irritating trend in the historical community of recent years that sets out to rip down the “Spartan Myth” in its entirety. We are now at the point where more than a few historians are convinced that Sparta wasn’t all that impressive militarily speaking. Hell, some even regard the rearguard action of Leonidas at Thermopylae as a useless tactical mistake, and that Sparta’s reputation is all propoganda.

Can someone explain why? I understand regarding the Spartans as morally dubious, the situation of the Helots being deplorable, but if you could ask any Persian Ghosts wandering the underworld as to their capabilities in battle you would likely discover it wasn’t all hot air. You do not get that sort of reputation throughout the Greek world for no reason.
 
There’s a very irritating trend in the historical community of recent years that sets out to rip down the “Spartan Myth” in its entirety. We are now at the point where more than a few historians are convinced that Sparta wasn’t all that impressive militarily speaking. Hell, some even regard the rearguard action of Leonidas at Thermopylae as a useless tactical mistake, and that Sparta’s reputation is all propoganda.

Can someone explain why? I understand regarding the Spartans as morally dubious, the situation of the Helots being deplorable, but if you could ask any Persian Ghosts wandering the underworld as to their capabilities in battle you would likely discover it wasn’t all hot air. You do not get that sort of reputation throughout the Greek world for no reason.


A lot of colleges are publish or perish places where you get and keep positions based on output over quality. This has resulted in a lot of incredibly bad scholarship.

This gets through because if you have the right connections, beliefs other academics will cover for you and on top of this a lot of the public has actual jobs and really don't pay attention to things happening in academia. this is only one small part of the incredible amount of corruption in american academia.

Seriously there is a lot of embezzelment in american academia, and misapropiated funds ending up being spent on a deans kitchen or something like that is just really fucking common.
 
It depends on what you define as 'impressive' military wise, Sparta was a military state who made top notch soldiers which pound per pound were probably the finest in the world at the time but there is a reason that their relevance waned in Greece and outside specific historical event's they were unable to maintain long term relevance on the at the time geopolitical scene.
 
There’s a very irritating trend in the historical community of recent years that sets out to rip down the “Spartan Myth” in its entirety. We are now at the point where more than a few historians are convinced that Sparta wasn’t all that impressive militarily speaking. Hell, some even regard the rearguard action of Leonidas at Thermopylae as a useless tactical mistake, and that Sparta’s reputation is all propoganda.

Can someone explain why? I understand regarding the Spartans as morally dubious, the situation of the Helots being deplorable, but if you could ask any Persian Ghosts wandering the underworld as to their capabilities in battle you would likely discover it wasn’t all hot air. You do not get that sort of reputation throughout the Greek world for no reason.
Which Sparta? that who could wield 10.000 hoplites ,or that which could wield 500 or less?
Becouse,their economy was fucked from the beginning,and lead to situation where less and less hoplites could be trained in their system.

And,change of tactic and number of soldiers.Even if they still had 10.000 hoplites,3 average roman legions would still beat them easily - becouse they used better tactic,and had other troops then heavy infrantry.

So,Sparta was impressive - TILL they had enough hoplites,and till they faced persian levies,not real armies.
 
Modern academia is anti-Western and so there is going to be a trend to villainous Spartans and to downplay their capabilities. In fact, the general macho aspects of Spartan society probably rubs most left wing academics the wrong way enough that their research will be hopelessly biased.
 
Modern academia is anti-Western and so there is going to be a trend to villainous Spartans and to downplay their capabilities. In fact, the general macho aspects of Spartan society probably rubs most left wing academics the wrong way enough that their research will be hopelessly biased.

I really doubt modern acadamia will survive the death of modernity.

Sooner or later people will refuse to pay for the careers of people who actively hate them.
 
Wasn't Sparta much more female inclusive than Athens?
Eh…sort of. Spartan women were expected to be Spartan mothers, but in breeding the Homoioi “master race” only the best broodmares would do. That meant physical and mental fitness in service to Sparta. They weren’t quite the equals of men but they probably enjoyed greater privileges than their neighbours.
 
Try this...
This. Isn’t. Sparta. – A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry
Collections: This. Isn’t. Sparta. Part I: Spartan School
Collections: This. Isn’t. Sparta. Part VI: Spartan Battle
 
It depends on what you define as 'impressive' military wise, Sparta was a military state who made top notch soldiers which pound per pound were probably the finest in the world at the time but there is a reason that their relevance waned in Greece and outside specific historical event's they were unable to maintain long term relevance on the at the time geopolitical scene.
Their influence only waned in Greece when Greece itself waned and became overshadowed (and eventually subjugated) by Macedon. Sparta was a, or the, dominant military power throughout the period of Persia's dominance and then afterwards as it came to defeat Athens.
 
Their influence only waned in Greece when Greece itself waned and became overshadowed (and eventually subjugated) by Macedon. Sparta was a, or the, dominant military power throughout the period of Persia's dominance and then afterwards as it came to defeat Athens.
True.Facing persian levies with inferior weapons.Even if they still had all their hoplites when romans come,they would still lost - thanks to worst tactic used.

And,they waned thanks to their stupid system - which could simply not replace warriorrs which they need.
 
Eh…sort of. Spartan women were expected to be Spartan mothers, but in breeding the Homoioi “master race” only the best broodmares would do. That meant physical and mental fitness in service to Sparta. They weren’t quite the equals of men but they probably enjoyed greater privileges than their neighbours.

Perhaps this is anecdotal on my part. But I'm also noticing that small tribal-based nations ironically enough tend to be more egalitarian and merit-based than their larger imperial neighbors. To me it makes sense. When tribes are smaller and EVERYONE has to be able to not only to contribute to the tribe but also to their own survival and their families people are kind of expected to be able to do stuff for themselves if something happens. heck in REALLY dire times, EVERY WARM BODY COUNTS, A SWORD AND SHIELD IS A SWORD AND SHIELD. Even in less dire times, Who's going to take care of things on the homefront if all the men and boys are out raiding or all the men in the family die in war? You either learned to survive, starved, or sold yourself into slavery to a stronger tribe.

There is evidence of this in the Spartans, in many of the Nordic Germanic tribes, the Celts. Heck even in modern times, compare what a typical country girl can do compared to their city-slicking counterparts.
 
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It depends on what you define as 'impressive' military wise, Sparta was a military state who made top notch soldiers which pound per pound were probably the finest in the world at the time but there is a reason that their relevance waned in Greece and outside specific historical event's they were unable to maintain long term relevance on the at the time geopolitical scene.
This is very very late, and I do apologise for it, but it strikes me as if the Spartans ran into somewhat similar problems to Republican Rome: their system simply wasn’t designed to run an empire. On the City State level it functioned reasonably effectively to the point that they didn’t have to bother with walls around their city and had informal hegemony over their part of Greece, alongside near equal standing with Athens.

Beyond that though? Sparta fell apart trying to do something Lycurgus never envisioned it doing.
 
This is very very late, and I do apologise for it, but it strikes me as if the Spartans ran into somewhat similar problems to Republican Rome: their system simply wasn’t designed to run an empire. On the City State level it functioned reasonably effectively to the point that they didn’t have to bother with walls around their city and had informal hegemony over their part of Greece, alongside near equal standing with Athens.

Beyond that though? Sparta fell apart trying to do something Lycurgus never envisioned it doing.
Partially true.Their system supposed to keep 10.000 hoplites for army - but,gradually,it failed and let for keeping less and less.
And you could blame lycurgus for that.
 
Their influence only waned in Greece when Greece itself waned and became overshadowed (and eventually subjugated) by Macedon. Sparta was a, or the, dominant military power throughout the period of Persia's dominance and then afterwards as it came to defeat Athens.
Athens eventually came out on top though, there's a reason Athens is the capital of Greece and not Sparta :p
 
Athens eventually came out on top though, there's a reason Athens is the capital of Greece and not Sparta :p
Athens survived the implosion of the Spartan Hegemony and did enjoy a brief revival…until Macedon steamrollered them. Philip the one eyed was not to be denied, and the father of Alexander was not an easy man to deny.

Unless you happen to be Spartans, funnily enough. They still seemed to have enough reputation and muscle to make Philip think twice before attacking them, as demonstrated in the famous “if” story.
 
it strikes me as if the Spartans ran into somewhat similar problems to Republican Rome: their system simply wasn’t designed to run an empire. On the City State level it functioned reasonably effectively to the point that they didn’t have to bother with walls around their city and had informal hegemony over their part of Greece, alongside near equal standing with Athens.

Beyond that though? Sparta fell apart trying to do something Lycurgus never envisioned it doing.

Correct, and it goes to show that a fair bit of the actual "Sparta-bashing" is misguided. That is not to say that criticism of Sparta is undeserved. In fact, it is quite richly deserved, because Sparta was deeply flawed-- and repeatedly succeeded more-or-less in spite of itself.

Your observation cuts to the heart of it. Yes, they faced the same problem Rome faced. And Rome adapted to the needs of the occasion. Sparta... did not. And when we investigate why not, we see the rotten core of Sparta. The way in which it ultimately doomed itself. Sparta was just about the most rigid society in recorded history. It was rigid by design. They did everything to make it that way, because they believed that "be the hardest badass around" was the way to go about things. But things hat are exceedingly hard and unyieldingly rigid are also brittle. They never bend, because they can't bend.

We recently talked about the attributes that made the more "youthful" Romans sufficiently dynamic, whereas the more "elderly" Greek cultures were comparatively more stagnant and "set in their ways". (This of course ultimately happened to the Romans, too, during the Dominate. You can't escape old age.) Now, the Spartans were just about the most stagnated and ossified of the Greek cultures. Not because they were older, but because they deliberately set their society up around an ideal of cultural purity that became completely fixed and immutable.

That give them their strength. When others dallied, they acted, because to be Spartan is to act. When others were uncertain, they were resolute, because to be Spartan is to always know who you are. But when the world changed, others could (to varying degrees) change with it.

And Sparta could not.


Athens survived the implosion of the Spartan Hegemony and did enjoy a brief revival…until Macedon steamrollered them. Philip the one eyed was not to be denied, and the father of Alexander was not an easy man to deny.

Unless you happen to be Spartans, funnily enough. They still seemed to have enough reputation and muscle to make Philip think twice before attacking them, as demonstrated in the famous “if” story.

In reality, Epaminondas -- whose innovations in no small manner paved the way for the Macedonian ascendancy a bit later on -- already broke the Spartans quite comprehensively. He didn't destroy them, but then... he didn't have to. He defeated them by being innovative in war, while they relied on tried-and-tested tactics. He ran circles around them, and then he stood there as they drooped off back to their home.

He didn't even give them the final clash they desired. He left them to keep existing, for centuries thereafter, as an irrelevant side-show. That was the ultimate humiliation. During the Roman period, Sparta was something of an open-air museum. A tourist attraction. A clownish parody of its own glorious past, turned to mockery in the play-act of remembered greatness... forever lost.

Philippos II surely knew that Spartan soldiers were still strong in his day, and the overland approach was very tough, and Macedon was not a naval power... so he never attacked them. But consider also that he didn't have to. Sparta couldn't threaten him, and he knew it. He could leave them be. They were already inconsequential to the serious powers of the region. And when Alexander crossed the narrows, and the Spartans sulkily declined to send a cohort, he left a dedication at the Granikos:

"Here Alexander fought the Persians, leading an army of all the Greeks, except the Spartans."

So basically, he was telling the world that the age of Leonidas was well and truly over. As indeed it was.
 

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