Bettany Hughes explores the strange world of Sparta, where equality was enforced, and military discipline was for everyone. These were a group of people who were determined to be as perfect as they could be. However, for all their determination to perfection, they were not the best writers. As well as the fact that there wasn't much left behind by the Spartans. What we know is from other historians as well as what the digs can fine. Even the Greek Ancestors found their civilization shocking.
Hughes starts off her tale of the Spartans with a trip to a burial mound, it is a place where 300 men were buried while fighting the Persians. They were massacred by the invading Persians, but their sacrifice continues to echo through history. The Spartans were famous for frugality and the fighters. They had a spirit of cooperation among the people. They also encouraged individual achievement and competition.
Money was outlawed and weak infants were killed. The women were more free. Equality was enforced. It defined the rights and duties of the citizens and helped saved Western Civilization. They participated in the Trojan War. They claimed that their kings were descendants of Hercules. When the Spartans expanded their territory, they didn't colonize, they took over, enslaving the population. They were a people wary, always afraid of slave rebellions.
They were the most extreme civilization in the world. Spartan men would just fight or train or hang out with their fellow fighters. All male Spartans had to earn their citizenship. Babies that did not meet Spartan standards of physical perfection, were thrown off the cliff. Boy infants were tossed, and it was the city elders that made the decision and not the parents. Then at the age of 7 they were placed in the training system. An older boy was put in charge of their training and discipline. They were encouraged to supplement of rations by stealing and if they were caught they were flogged for getting caught. There was a legendary secret service brigade, who were like a death squad, roaming the countryside.
If you want to find out more about the Spartans, continue to watch the documentary. You can use clips of it for the classroom setting. Bettany Hughes is an excellent narrator and this is one of the top documentaries I've seen on Sparta.
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