“Remember this day men, for it will be yours for all time.
Ready your breakfast and eat hearty, for tonight we dine in Hell!”
This bone-chilling war-cry sends goosebumps down the spine every time the scene plays. Anyone who knows Greek history knows who the Spartans were. Fabled to have descended from Hercules himself, the dauntless and brazen nature of the Spartans gave testament to their bloodline.
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A warrior nation- bred for battle and unfaltering even in the face of imminent death- the Spartans have left being a legacy too insurmountable for any other civilization to fill!
They reached the pinnacle of their power when they defeated Athens in the Peloponnesian War in 431 BC. It was a long drawn out battle, but when the dust finally settled in 404 BC, only one victor was standing. At the zenith of their prowess, the Spartans had taken down the mightiest city in the World.
They now stood perched atop the pyramid- with the world at their feet.
More Than What Meets the Eye
Over the years, the Spartan legacy- while very much still alive and relevant- has been centred only around their heroism in battle. They were truly some of the finest warriors to have ever graced this world; but saying that that was all there was to them, is a very narrow-minded understanding of their true legacy.
Apart from their innovative military strategies in warfare, they were also an incredibly prosperous community that utilized its resources and abundance of fertile land to their economic advantage. Moreover, they were also one of the few civilizations that actually gave women equal rights! Women were allowed to vote, own property, make business transactions and even partake in politics of the state. Spartan women had a reputation for being strong-willed and independent-minded and even enjoyed a lot more autonomy than their counterparts throughout the ancient world ever dreamed of.
Their education system was also one of their most striking achievements. While most believe that their practice of “Agoge”- casting a child to fend for itself was strictly a form of coming of age military preparation, it actually transcended that boundary and gave the student a wholesome and holistic education. In fact, the great philosopher Plato even credits Sparta as being the birthplace of Greek philosophy.
The Fall of the Spartan Empire
It was late in 371 BC when the Spartan Empire suffered a cataclysmic blow. In the Battle of Leuctra, the Spartan army was` handed a crushing defeat by the Thebans. The story goes that while the Spartans were on the verge of winning the war, a scorned ex-soldier showed the Thebans a way to attack the Spartans from the back. Being surrounded on all sides, the Spartan defence finally fell. The ending scene in the major blockbuster movie 300 was also inspired from this.
After the majority of the Spartan army was slaughtered, Sparta was faced with yet another disastrous blow- and this time, it would be fatal! Seeing that Sparta was still licking its wounds, the Theban general Epaminondas seized his opportunity and led an invasion into Sparta. The city was sacked, and Sparta would never rise from its ashes ever again.
Nevertheless, the Legacy of the Spartans still lingers on- stronger than ever.
And somewhere cross the pages of history are King Leonidas’ famous words echoing into eternity:
“This. Is. Sparta.”
By Kayannush Guard