I’m currently listening to A History of Ancient Sparta by Timothy Shutt. Some thoughts, so I keep posting:
- I thought gay marriage was a new thing, but the Spartan’s practiced a form of contractual gay relationships. Twelve-year old boys were paired with twenty-year old men, and these pairings lasted until the younger’s training was completed, when he turned twenty. Then he’d be picked for another gay contract. Of course neither the modern practice nor the ancient Spartan are marriage, but they do exist under official and overt contracts.
- Spartans were a feared, but small force. There were never very many Spartan men; usually less than 10,000. The land they controlled was worked by their slaves, the Helots, who outnumbered Spartans 10-1. There were also a class of craftsmen, the perioikoi, who were free, but not citizens of Sparta. Shutt theorizes that Sparta developed into a military state because they needed every man in the professional army to control such an overwhelming number of slaves.
- Spartan women were known to be beautiful, athletic, naked, (too) outspoken, and “free with their sexuality” in comparison to the other Greek city-states, and even other peoples. Older Spartan men often shared their younger wives with other men. Spartan wives, it is said, liked this arrangement. A wife would preside over two homes and no Spartan–male or female–was allowed to do work. Keeping house meant telling Helot slaves what to do.
- The crimson cloaks of Sparta–the official and mandatory uniforms–were dyed with the same Phoenician/Canaanite/Tyrian purple dye which the Romans used for their garments, and which is mentioned in Revelations. I may never buy another red or purple shirt.
One thought I had concerning the reasons that Spartan men became so individually imposing is because there were so few of them, and there had to be a lot of Spartan women. The men often died in battle, right? So what do you get when the men are constantly going off to either train for war, or go to war? You get women who can’t be bridled. You get women who expect every man to be better than the one who came before, and men who want to live up to that; if not exceed it. You get an elite group of men who can’t individually “service” the population of beautiful, nude, mouthy women.
As I was listening, I wondered if America isn’t working itself, unreflectively, towards a Spartan model. The author mentions, and I have heard myself directly, that many Europeans consider American women to be beautiful, (too) outspoken, and “free with their sexuality”. I certainly think there is a case to be made that we are developing–again, without thought–a marked separation between peoples which is turning America into a society of:
- Spartans (Athletes/politicians/entertainers/bankers/etc. In a word: Alphas)
- Perioikoi (Technicians/programmers/lawyers/accountants/middle management/Master Tradesmen/etc. In a word: Betas)
- Helots (Mexicans/Blacks/Poor Whites/etc. In a word: Chumps)