RDP Monday: SPARTAN
mid 17th century: from Spartan, because the inhabitants of Sparta were traditionally held to be indifferent to comfort or luxury.
This word has come to mean living without frills or extras, having only what is necessary for life. It includes having a strong will, extremely strong moral standards, no extras, respect for authority, hard work. All males of the city of Sparta were trained for, and expected to engage in, battle. They were trained to endure privation, pain, isolation. Their heroes were men who may have died in battle but who fought to the last breath, killing many before they succumbed.
Spartan women expected to become widows; mothers knew before they ever conceived a child that their sons were to be bred for war. The women were, out of necessity, nearly as stoic as their men.
Spartans didn’t waste their time in philosophizing, as did the Athenians. They didn’t build gorgeous buildings or engage in the arts. They were too busy perfecting the arts of war.
Honor, obedience, self-sacrifice: These were their words to live by. Their lifestyle was not marked by luxury, but by usefulness and practicality.
I remember talking about the Spartans and their way of life in one of my history classes years ago. It was not surprising to me that the boys, 10th grade if memory serves, were on the edge of their chairs. They were fascinated by these men who spent their whole lives training for war. They wanted to compare that lifestyle to something familiar to them. One of the boys asked if special forces, like Navy SEALS, were kind of like Spartan soldiers.
Now, I have great respect for such men–and women–who train knowing that they will be required at some point to face imminent death. I didn’t want to belittle their training, but I had to tell my class that there really is no comparison in America, because boys don’t start their training at birth here. The training the SEALS and other special forces go through is rigorous, and weeds out those who are not suited for it. But it is not the central focus of their lives from infancy to death
I also remember thinking, as I taught, that I was very glad I had not been a woman of Sparta.