The Real 300-A Spartan's Life
A short history of the life and times of growing up Spartan.
Hollywood is notorious for bringing life to what they feel is a boring topic or event. However, when they decided to produce the movie 300; they actually left out a lot of the action and excitement that really happened. The real story is more interesting than the movie and I would like to express some of these realities that were misinterpreted.
The Battle of Thermopylae lasted for seven days, three of which were in actual fighting. For two full days King Leonidas I and his 6000+ troops had stopped the Persian army from passing. On the second day Ephialtes told the Persian army of a path that would lead them behind the Greeks. Leonidas got word of this and sent the majority of the forces under his control away; leaving a mere 1500 soldiers (300 of which were the Spartans) to defend the pass.
Due to a prophecy spoken by the Oracle Leonidas knew he would die and only allowed Spartans with sons to battle. The prophecy went:
O ye men who dwell in the streets of broad Lacedaemon!
Either your glorious town shall be sacked by the children of Perseus,
Or, in exchange, must all through the whole Laconian country,
Mourn for the loss of a king, descendant of great Heracles.
The Spartans did lose the battle but allowed enough time for their allies to build a defense in Peloponnesus, which thanks to a later naval victory was never taken. The Persian Empire was halted and was never able to expand into Europe.
A Child's Life
A Spartan child was dipped in wine to test its strength. They believed a weak child would die from this. Then the child was taken to a council, which would decide if the child was defective. If they deemed it to be then it would be taken to Mount Taygetos and be discarded.
The child would live with their parents until the age of seven. At this time they would be taken to the Agoge. Here they learned of warfare and history. The wrestled and lived in a way to strengthen them mentally and physically every day till the age of 16.
At the age of 16 the boy would be expected to find a male partner. The Spartans felt that a warrior would fight harder for someone that they loved. This partner was older and would train the youngster in battle until the age of 20.
At the age of 20 the boy was now considered a man and would join the military. This was his life till the age of 30. If a Spartan were to marry before the age of 30 he was not allowed to live with his wife. On their wedding night the woman would have to shave her head and dress as a man. The man could then take her back to the barracks for the night. A Spartan could live at his own home when he was 30, and was often times given land to cultivate if that is what he wished.
The Spartan lifestyle was tough and very rigorous. There was no accommodation for the youngster’s comfort. They were built to be strong and endure anything that life was thrown at them. A famous quote tells the reality of Spartan life, “Come home with this shield or upon it.”