I'm in a warrior-ish mood. I've been reading up a lot lately on a favorite subject of mine... the Spartans, their society, their philosophies, their battles, their heroes. Everything. I've long believed that Spartan society was, for lack of a more modest word to describe it, perfect. The highest social classes were reserved solely for the warriors, the citizen soldiers. Indeed, citizenship itself required that you serve in the military. Soldiers did not serve the nobles, they WERE the nobles, and there was no other way to become one. Your status was determined not by your wealth, but by your prowess in battle and your character as a man. Honor and loyalty and integrity were so commonplace that the very weakest of them would be comparable to some of our finest heroes today.
The agoge in particular interests me. The living breathing antithesis of the political-correctness-bred weakness that I blogged about so recently. The agoge was the spartan schooling system. In the agoge they learned their history and arithmetic, their sciences and arts which you might be surprised to learn that the Spartans valued second only to military prowess. Singers and musicians were nearly as honored and respected as warriors. But primarily, above all else, the agoge was boot camp. 13 years of boot camp.
Their fathers would train them from the time they could stand, teaching them to fight and instructing them in the disciplines of respect and honor, the immortal warrior ethos that lives to this day as the unspoken and unspeakable code of honor that binds all who offer themselves into mortal combat in the defense of their beliefs. They would do all they could to prepare them for the agoge, which they would enter into at the age of 7, and remain there with their platoon/classmates until they graduated and joined the line at the age of 20, earning their citizenship.
It would take forever for me to go into all the details here of how they trained, what they learned, how they lived and how their society worked. Suffice to say that every last one of them would have put Hitler's ideal of a perfect master race to shame. To the last man, the Spartans were intelligent, clever, cunning, disciplined, honorable, witty, charismatic, and of course strong and fast and athletic. Again, for lack of a more humble word to affix to them, I would call them perfect. Perfection was practically a way of life for them. To the degree that, yes, imperfection was severely punished and looked upon with shame. Sure, that seems harsh, but there was no room for softness. The Spartans were superior to all others BECAUSE they demanded perfection.
And what's more, they believed in freedom, in the same sense as modern democracy believed in freedom. None were forced to live this way of life. Any who wished to leave Sparta and live a more comfortable life elsewhere was perfectly free to do so, though the Spartans would of course look down on them for their selfishness. See, the Spartans strived to be perfect not for themselves, but for their brothers in arms, for their city and their state. They believed their lives and their homes and their freedoms had been purchased by those who came before them, paid for with blood and flesh and souls, and that their own bodies and their own souls were in fact not their own, but the property of their yet unborn descendents whom they were thus obligated to serve and protect.
So it was that, as brutal as their lifestyle was, there wasn't a man among them who didn't embrace it and live it by his own free will and choosing. That is what seperates them from barbarians and distinguishes them as warriors. They CHOSE to live that life, harsh and unforgiving as it was, in service to their country and the generations yet to come. They subjected themselves to those merciless and unyielding demands for perfection, and they themselves chose to strive to achieve that perfection, refusing to quit and leave for any other city or any other life. Nothing was forced on them... they did this, not for themselves but for others, because they wanted to, it was their calling.
They made an entire society out of this. They ran their own government, managed their own economy, made their own laws, and yet the entire society's class system was decided as I said, not by wealth and station but by prowess. The highest social classes were reserved for the warriors... even the King himself, revered and obeyed and followed though he was, was nothing more than another of their warriors. He would not plot and scheme and command from the rear, but rather position himself in the very lead of his army on the field of battle, placing himself in the most dangerous of all positions to be in. Even the King was devoted to serving his nation and his men before himself, as it should be. He dressed as they did, lived as they did, and enjoyed no special privileges that they did not. He did not serve his station as King and representative of Sparta to other nations for any kind of rewards that it brought, or social status, because it brought none. He did it simply out of his desire to serve his people and his country. As it should be.
You hold them in contrast to our own society, the way our government coddles us and serves our ridiculous and pitiful demands for excessive comfort and luxury, protects us from one another to the point that we can't even teach our children the valuable lessons that come only through pain and hardship because to inflict such pain and hardship on them would in itself be an unpardonable offense. This is how weak and pathetic we've become. It kind of makes you sick, doesn't it?