Spartans - Martial icons or militant queens?

Discussion in 'The NAAFI Bar' started by oldcolt, Nov 19, 2009.

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  1. Having recently finished the book on the Spartans by Paul Cartledge and been involved in a number of discussions on whether gays should be allowed in the military over the years; I thought I would put the subject out for deep and meaningful discussion in the NAAFI bar.

    They combed each others hair and oiled each other up before going into battle and had enforced homosexuality from an early age; preferring to live and have sex with men, rather than their wives but were, by any account, one of the most feared, fearless and skilled warriors of their time, using precise dance moves as a choreography for their fighting.

    So, a bunch of militant queens efficiently mincing about on the battlefield to music or should we idolise them as martial heroes?
  2. :wink:
    Are we talking about the Spartans or the RAF Regt?
  3. Melvin Bragg was just talking about them on Radio 4. Apparently the chicks would sing homoerotic songs about each other to get hot and bothered before getting married.

    And they took the sons off your hands when they reach 7 years old and teach them militarism, discipline and austerity. You can't pay for that kind of childcare these days.
  4. They may be as gay as some very gay things but they kicked the crap out of most of Greece and the Persians (until Epaminondas beat them at the Battle of Leuctra) so I suspect it wouldn't be a good idea to walk into a pub in Sparta and say so!

    However, I suspect the Spartan walts aren't quite so tough though...



  5. I think you need to read the whole of your bold....the words efficient and martial heroes are mentioned :lol:
  6. Not quite.

    Other warriros have used dancing to help in battle (The Gurkhas do it) and it wasn't a homosexual relationship as such. It didn't neccesarily mean bum sex. As for sex, yes, maybe some Spartans did have homosexual sex, however, they had sex with their wives... whilst living in barracks their wives would sneak in dressed as soldiers, and it was perfectly acceptable to have sex with women other than your wife, the idea being to make more Spartan babies. They were fully in tune with the idea of breading livestock and that they were merely the livestock.

    Hence why Spartan women were well educated for the time, and had their own Olympiad. After all, 'Only a Spartan Woman can give birth to a Spartan'. They knew they had to keep the pedigree.

    The bit about how close the men were is merely a e'spirit de Corps. If you are about to go in to battle protected by your mate, then you want to be bonded with him.

    The quote from 300, 'Spartan, come back with your shield, or on it' was a reference that a Spartan with no shield would be put to death. The shield was used to protect the man to the Spartans side, so losing it meant jacking on your comrade.

    Hence the male bonding and living in messes.

    You also have to take in to account the various religious changes in time. Homosexuality wasn't really snubbed in Greek or Roman times, nor was shagging about. Both societies had devorce, yet all three of these acts were pretty much put down by various religious conventions as time went on.
  7. The Spartans were incredible warriors,there Youth training scheme 'the Agogee' was cruel but effective,as indeed was there tradition of joining older veterans with young 'cadets in what generally became a sexual relationship.Their life was however totally dependant on their helot slaves who undertook all non military duties and were policed by terror attacks by Spartan secret police the Kryptia' who would kill a few helots every now and then in order to keep a grip.The Spartans are very attractive to military minds but had many strange ways!
  8. One day, I'm going to understand ARRSE. You put a post for a sensible debate on a 'normal' forum and it gets crayoned over; then you try to have a bit of fun in the place where irreverent fun is supposed to be, and you get serious well made points :? :? :?

    Chocolate Frog; my reading of the Spartans differs from yours in that whilst you correctly state that martial efficiency came from living and eating together (where the word for mess derives from I believe), the new recruits were required and expected to take a more senior male lover if they were to be accepted.
  9. The Helots are referred to as slaves, but they don't really fit in to a clear position as we would know it today (ie Slave, Serf or free man).

    They were a race that the Spartans had defeated and enslaved. They were not permitted to vote or have any political say, yet otherwise were quite priveledged. They accompanied Spartan soldiers in battle, but as support services rather than fighters.

    Having said that Helots fought with their 300 at Thermoply.

    The annual ritual of killing by the Kryptia (darkness or night) was the 'rite of passage' as the killers were the graduateing Agoggee class. They were NOT to be caught in this deed.

    Spartans also were said to kill Helots who were on their land, who had got fat.

    Helots were used as child carers and wet nurses also, and the babies rejected as Spartans were never, or very infrequently, killed. They were left in the fields, where teh Helots picked them up and took them as their own.
  10. Barkingly insane but more nails than a nail made of nails :D

    probably laugh at selection or p company as effete.

    US marines like to refer to themselves as the modern day spartans then get very huffy about spartan sexual habits :twisted: They bite every time
  11. Andy_S

    Andy_S LE Book Reviewer

    Dance moves as combat choreography for the phalanx? modern martial arts, solo patterns are taught to impart rhythm and technique. I wonder if that is what Cartledge is describing - or a form of foot drill (which would be set to martial muzak, naturally).

    Spartan CSM:
    "Here they come! Spear thrust! Shield cover! Steady, lads,! By the leeeeeft - quuuiiick mince!"
  12. Bonded! Phnarr Phnarr!
    They must be a close bunch in 3 Para Mortars then :wink:
  13. There were only 298 Spartans at Thermopylae, Aristodemus did a runner, Probably the first recorded case of PTSD there might have been a second survivor Pantites who had acted as a messenger to Thessally But was so disgraced to have missed the battle , Hanged himself

    See Herodotus, "The Histories" Page 496
  14. Can remember sitting in an A level ancient history class and musing that the Helots would have been ripe for a bit of CIA Stylee destabilisation and Green Beret type action ... to be told that it did happen... I can't remeber the details now but the Athenians wound them up at some point.

  15. I agree that they were to take a senior 'mentor', or vice versa. However, I don't beleive that ALL of these relationships ended up with homosexuality. Perhaps the relationship would be closer than what we would now adays see as comfortable.

    But look at some of the antics of (for example) the Marines and Parachute Regiment, amongst others. Likewise, as I pointed out. THe main thrust was to produce Spartan Babies.... homosexual intercourse doesn't do this.

    The Ancient Greeks may have written what we perceive today as homosexual relationships, but it doesn't follow this was what they were describing. They do not share our views of these acts.

    In Greek literature such close friendships are often described, but don't include the description of the sex act, yet they do in male/female relationships.

    Such descriptions include Achieles and Patrocus, described in the Illiad. Some subsequent works describe the relationship as romantic, other argue this wasn't the case (by subsequent I mean still ancient times, not modern day).

    Likewise the relationship between Hercules and Lolaus was also hinted at being Homosexaul, yet Hercules even gave his 'lvoer' his own wife after a bit of a todo with the couples kids (which resulted in their deaths :s )