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March 12, 2007

Comments

Sparta certainly gets, and deserves, no love for its role in the planning leading up to Salamis.

I went to Michigan State, so like, stop hatin.

Themistocles rules!

Weren't there several occasion with the Spartans not showing up for battle because some important religious ceremonies had to be held first, so the Greek alliance had to change plans?

If I remember correctly the Persian fleet at Salamis was not even technically backward as is often assumed. The Greek had just better rowing training, had a chance to clean their hulls and most of them could swim.

I'll be back later with a Thespian joke. Thanks.

"the standard Spartan army was no better than the army of any other Greek state (as clearly demonstrated in later conflicts)"

I thought this was a case of Thebes catching up in training techniques and improving in shield technology.

Steve-

When was the last time that a sports team was called the Thespians or even Athenians? Sports teams tend to be named after famous militarist failures like the Spartans or Trojans.

After the Banana Slugs and the UConn Husky pun, I have a hard time thinking of many team mascots that show originality or appeal.

Rilfekan is right. Sparta won nearly every straight-up right she participated in until Leuctra in 371. Her army was the closest thing to a standing professional force Greece had, and it showed. Her problem as time went on was not the quality of her troops, but declining manpower.

freelunch,

Philly College teams at least have some originality, once you get past Villanova Wildcats. Other major colleges include Penn Quakers (whose problem is that they are too non-violent around the rim), Drexel Dragons and LaSalle Explorers. Even Temple Owls and St. Joseph Hawks are not overdone names for teams.

The Pomona Sagehens (go Hens!)

I'm partial to the Iowa Hawkeyes.

I wish you and Sullivan were right, von. But since the movie is almost frame-for-frame loyal to Frank "Holy Terror" Miller's comic, I think that while you *can* read it that way, it's 180 degrees from the authorial intent. Miller has become the comics benchmark for homophobia and misogyny. The fact that he makes the *Spartans* homophobes, fercryinoutloud, shows how warped his attitude is. Historically, when a Persian spy found Leonidas and his gang getting ready for Thermopylae they were doing each others' hair -- because you wouldn't want to die looking *tacky*, after all.

Here's the best review of 300 I know of in the category "Righteous Fury".

Yeah, Frank Miller hasn't quite gone Dave Sim-level nuts, but he's getting there.

I'm partial to the Iowa Hawkeyes.

I always wondered about that. Is the mascot some kind of ambulatory eyeball? Or are they named after that guy from M*A*S*H?

Delaware Blue Hens strike fear into the hearts of opponents!

At least Purdue Boilermakers were named in anticipation of the need for self-anaesthesia following the inevitable postseason implosion, when there even is a postseason.

eventually destroyed the much-larger Persian fleet at the Battle of Salamis

Only because the Spartans were equipped to launch flaming 50-lb Genoa varieties at the Persians.

Slarti,

"I always wondered about that. Is the mascot some kind of ambulatory eyeball? Or are they named after that guy from M*A*S*H?"

Likely the character in Last of the Mohicans. In an era when Native-Americans are being removed from mascots, is this the next to go?

"Delaware Blue Hens strike fear into the hearts of opponents!"

Named for the symbol used on the standard by Delaware's soldiers in the Revolutionary War.

there's very little to like about Spartan society, particularly when compared with Athenian democracy (the competing model);

Spartan women were regarded more as equals, or at least as lesser citizens: Athenian women had the legal status of either breeding animals or sex toys.

I noticed this decades ago, when I realized how many Athenian accounts of Sparta made a point of saying how obnoxious and independent Spartan women were.

More silly mascots:

UC Irvine Anteaters

Scottsdale Community College Artichokes

I always wondered about that. Is the mascot some kind of ambulatory eyeball? Or are they named after that guy from M*A*S*H?

The Marvel comics character.

Likely the character in Last of the Mohicans. In an era when Native-Americans are being removed from mascots, is this the next to go?

From a quick google, this appears to be partially correct (also a tribute to Chief Black Hawk, apparently). The mascot is portrayed as a bird, so offending imaging isn't present, in addition to the name "Braves" or something similar. Now, if we can just do something about the Fighting Irish and their horribly offensive Leprachaun.

Sparta fetishism is a bit like Roman Empire fetishism. Neither has much base in reality and the people who indulge these fetishes always see themselves as male members of the upper classes rather than as helots, slaves, women, or any of the multitude of subhuman categories that the majority of people were forced into.

Also, if those 700 were Master Thespians they could easily have won the battle alone. In fact, I think it's likely that there were *no* Spartans at Thermopylae, but rather 700 regular Thespians and 300 Master Thespians who were pretending to be Spartans. Acting!

The Marvel comics character

I thought that was Hawkman, although I stopped paying attention a while back.

Speaking of which, anyone interested in a Sewer Urchin action figure, still in the original packaging?

Dang, you can still buy them on Ebay for $5. So much for that investment.

Slarti,

Hawkman is DC. Hawkeye is Marvel's version of Green Arrow.

'300' takes no prisoners

'300' Warner Bros.' bloody, f/x-heavy battle pic "300" made an outright assault on the B.O. over the weekend, mopping up just over $70 million and bludgeoning any negative reviews in its path. Playing in more than 3,100 theaters, pic was the third biggest R-rated opener ever.

For the mascot list: RISD's Nads. (Because of the cheer...)

but...but...this would like frustrate yet another attempt at revising history to fit current political facts, so we can justify aggression with heroes of the past. no fair!

There's also:

Williams Ephmen (or "Ephs")
Amherst Lord Jeffs (or Lady Jeffs)

I also got my knowledge of Thermopylae from a comic book, but it was the Cartoon History of the Universe, which certainly did not overlook the Thespians, the hairdressing, or Salamis. Highly recommended.

only a few decades after Thermopylae, Sparta was making common cause with the Persians in Sparta's wars against Athens. Defender of the Greeks? Only when it suited Sparta's interest.

It's worth noting that the hero of Salamis, Themistocles, ended his days working for the Persians as well.

Lots of wacky Sparta and Rome bashing here, all based on modern morality and beliefs. Snore.

Ugh -- You, um, got a problem with "Ephs"?

;)

regardless of historical accuracy, Leonidas provided the name for the best chocolates in the world.

I posted about 300, and the response of some of the Manly Men of the right here last week.

"Miller has become the comics benchmark for homophobia and misogyny."

Uh, where does that leave Dave Sim?

I'm unclear, in this passive usage, who Miller has become this benchmark for: are you saying that's how he's regarded generally in comics prodom or fandom?

Jes, I strongly suspect (1) that "treating women better than Athenian laws did" is faint, faint praise indeed, and (2) that Athenian women were rather more assertive and independent than the laws would seem to suggest. Lysistrata would not have been funny had it not rung true on some levels.

Oh, and re: Miller -- he didn't kill off the female Robin, did he? Or is that in the Dark Knight sequel that I never read?

"Lots of wacky Sparta and Rome bashing here, all based on modern morality and beliefs. Snore."

Would you like Sparta-bashing based on contemporary opinion?


"The stand at Thermopylae was the only good thing that Sparta ever did."

Their music was widely praised and influential.

Her problem as time went on was not the quality of her troops, but declining manpower.

It is true Sparta's policies made it very difficult for Sparta to grow (and there always were those pesky Helots who wanted their freedom and needed to be put down). But, c'mon: Sparta's armies were repeatedly defeated by Athens -- or left stranded in precarious tactical positions by idiotic leadership -- during later conflicts (mostly, the PP war).

As for Sparta's women: this is why I said there was "very little" to like about Spartan society, rather than "nothing." Spartan women did have a great deal more power than Athenian women.

The Marvel comics character

I thought that was Hawkman, although I stopped paying attention a while back.

Go on, confuse the DC comics universe with the Marvel comics universe. See if I care.

Poor Clint Barton; he don't get no respect.

Although for special bonus fun, I'd love to see Slart try to untangle the history of Hawkman. It's such a simple, uncomplicated, story.

As far as I recall the Spartans were in fact much better about women's rights than the rest of Greece - esp. in terms of education and economics.

Funny maybe factoid - Spartan wives had the rights of widows when their husbands were away at war.

Anderson: Jes, I strongly suspect (1) that "treating women better than Athenian laws did" is faint, faint praise indeed, and (2) that Athenian women were rather more assertive and independent than the laws would seem to suggest.

Impossible now to tell. But certainly, in all the Golden Age of Athens, women are conspicuous by their absence. There are no women writing plays or poems: no women identified as sculptors or architects or politicians or actors: no women identified even as tradesfolk earning an independent living. None. Women exist by reference - "Diotima" in The Dinner Party - and we know that Socrates' wife was regarded as a nag by his friends.

Arguing that Lysistrata "rang true"? Perhaps: as the only authority than an Athenian man could imagine a woman having was the ability to deny sex to her husband.

Aristotle waxes verbose in at least one of his works (though Aristotle is always verbose) on how horrible it is to think that a third of Spartan estates are held by women.

"the Spartans were in fact much better about women's rights than the rest of Greece"

Though maybe the "women who play sports breed better warriors" idea behind it is a bit creepy.

If this were twenty or so years ago, I could proudly mention the Pekin (Ill.) Chinks. But they capitulated to the PC Police (surprisingly powerful in central Illinois) and changed their nickname to the Dragons.

They brought a bunch of _actors_ to a battle?

The Dinner Party ?!?! sorry, but that just sounds totally naff - is that really how it's translated in english schools?

My own personal mascot shame: the NYU Violets.

I kid you not. The freakin' Violets.

If we are not limited to college teams, hopefully we also can not be limited to sport. In which event I recommend the name of a former minor league hockey team which played in Macon, Georgia, called the Whoopee. The Macon Whoopee.

We're bad mouthing a graphic novel turned movie with demons and magic as sociopolitical commentary, let alone the fact that the novel was written in 1999, along before the current political stage had been set.

And as far as it being totally misogynic, remember that all the extra footage is about a woman kicking political ass while her husband is away.

The PC Police would make a pretty good name for a college team.

More silly mascots:

Moorhead High School Spuds.

As for the movie, I thought it was really good. Normally, stylized violence/combat really irritates me, but not this time. Does it take liberties with history? Absolutely. Remember, though, that this is the Spartan propaganda version of events. The framing device revealed at the end should make that obvious. Of course it makes the Spartans look really good and denigrates everyone else. In the end, that didn't bug me as much as it usually does, probably because of the framing device.

Almost everything in Sparta was about domestic policy, that domestic policy being the preservation of elite privilege. It was a closed, conservative, static society, but they were not the first or last to value stability and security over growth. Von is giving them a very bad rap. Although I am not one, there are people who think their particular culture is worth preserving, and are willing to pay a very high cost.

There used to be modern conservatives:British nobility engraved Lycurgus on their walls. Now we apparently have some kind of critters who want the stability of Sparta and the dynamism of Athens, without accepting that their virtues and flaws were inextricably related. I think they are called neo-cons or libertarians or something. They dream of ponies.

As a graduate, I should note that the U of Delaware is the Fightin' Blue Hens, not simply the Blue Hens. Makes all the difference.

Yeah, I suppose the Fightin' Violets would sound better...actually, no. Still sucks.

I also like George Carlin's suggestion of the "Milwaukee Beer Farts."

Uh, where does that leave Dave Sim?

Wishing he got to write for DC.

who Miller has become this benchmark for: are you saying that's how he's regarded generally in comics prodom or fandom?

Certainly that's how he's seen in the end of comics fandom I know, but I know mostly female fans. Who are really pissed. Yet still have senses of humor.

The Dinner Party ?!?! sorry, but that just sounds totally naff - is that really how it's translated in english schools?

No idea. No school I went to would have let its students read The Symposium - and at least one for-schools translation I picked up years ago carefully removed most of Alcibiades. Anyway, I did Latin at school, not Greek: I read Plato for fun, and in English translations only. But, I blush for myself - I mistyped The Drinking Party (which is how, mostly thanks to Mary Renault, I tend to refer to it) as The Dinner Party, which is inaccurate.

Few can top the WTF? mascoting that is the Brandeis Justices.

The entire current-politics analysis/argument is so completely projectional and moronic that it reminds me of people doing Rohrschach exams with blank pieces of paper.

And I personally think the way the Spartans rebuffed Philip II of Macedonia was a classic good thing, two letters better than Nuts!

Has anyone put in a good word for the Evergreen State Geoducks yet? :-)

Almost everything in Sparta was about domestic policy, that domestic policy being the preservation of elite privilege. It was a closed, conservative, static society, but they were not the first or last to value stability and security over growth. Von is giving them a very bad rap. Although I am not one, there are people who think their particular culture is worth preserving, and are willing to pay a very high cost.

What advances of science did Spartan domestic society provide*? What great works of art? What insights of philosophy? What aspects of modern civilization do we trace back to Sparta, other than this bizarre hero worship?

Let's face it: When we refer to the golden age of Greek culture, we are really talking about Athenian culture in every practical sense.

Sparta is little more than a second-rate power who, largely by reasons of avarice and envy, all-but-destroyed Athens over the course of the PP war. (Although, as a mark to the general resiliancy of Athens v. Sparta, Athens sprang back within a half-century while Sparta generally declined.)

I also recognize that I'm taking this movie way too seriously, which is a luxury that I have since I haven't seen it.

*Granted that Syracuse, a Spartan colony on Scily, produced some notable engineers and thinkers -- but this is an exception that could be used to prove the rule that Spartans in Sparta were in a bad place.

Actually, the best retort to McManus is Pericles, who is alluding to Sparta in the following passage from his Funeral Oration:

.... Our city is thrown open to the world, though and we never expel a foreigner and prevent him from seeing or learning anything of which the secret if revealed to an enemy might profit him. We rely not upon management or trickery, but upon our own hearts and hands. And in the matter of education, whereas they from early youth are always undergoing laborious exercises which are to make them brave, we live at ease, and yet are equally ready to face the perils which they face. ....

If then we prefer to meet danger with a light heart but without laborious training, and with a courage which is gained by habit and not enforced by law, are we not greatly the better for it? Since we do not anticipate the pain, although, when the hour comes, we can be as brave as those who never allow themselves to rest; thus our city is equally admirable in peace and in war. For we are lovers of the beautiful in our tastes and our strength lies, in our opinion, not in deliberation and discussion, but that knowledge which is gained by discussion preparatory to action. For we have a peculiar power of thinking before we act, and of acting, too, whereas other men are courageous from ignorance but hesitate upon reflection.

Lehigh used to be called the Engineers. Also, Fear the Turtle!

What great works of art? What insights of philosophy? What aspects of modern civilization do we trace back to Sparta, other than this bizarre hero worship?

Well....there is the Laconic Wit.

Anyone who goes to see "300" thinking it is history will be sorry. It has as much to do with what actually happened as "Young Bess" and is a typical example of what Hollywood does to History.

I won't go into the debate between Sparta and Athens, that is a much to long a debate for here. But I do want to point out that Sparta is subject to a much miss information as Athens. To support this it was Sparta that women were able to hold property and only male Freemen could be citizens in Athens (sometimes this could be as little as 1% of the total population of the city).

To end I'd just say this, the Spartans were Greek with all the cultural baggage that entails. The "300" is a Hollywood movie with all that entails. Finally I found "300" a bad movie and it has a very good shot at becoming a "cult classic".

"What advances of science did Spartan domestic society provide*? What great works of art? What insights of philosophy?"

That is not a retort, the Spartans deliberately avoided these things. von, you are not exactly addressing VDH or another neo-con here. I am sympatico with Athens and Florence (20s Paris?) rather than Confucian China or Shogunate Japan. But I also don't particularly care about preserving anything in American or Western Culture. Change is good, the faster the better, we will find out where we are when we get there.

As the Athenians found out. There was no lack of Athenian resistance to Athenian dynamism, from those who killed Socrates to Aristophanes to Plato. And for centuries Sparta was the admired culture, for reasons more profound than "hero-worship"

Have you no sympathy for conservatives?

(Currently reading thru Thucydides for all the arguments against Athens, of which there are plenty. The Athenians were monstrous, amoral & nihilistic, worse than the Spartans to their neighbours. By our Enlightenment standards, they were just prettier monsters.)

Granted that Syracuse, a Spartan colony on Scily [sic],

Syracuse was not a Spartan colony. It was, rather famously, a Corinthian colony. Perhaps you are thinking of Tarentum, which was, so far as I am aware, the only Spartan colony.

To riff a bit on Bob's comments, as far as foreign relations are concerned, surely it says something that just about every independent government in Greece, with the exception of Sparta's ancient rival Argos, was allied with Sparta. Athens's "allies" were all clients, at best, with hand-picked "democratic" governments of Athenian puppets running things for the benefit of the Athenian treasury. Virtually every independent power worthy of the name took the Spartan side, particularly Corinth and Thebes. The Peloponnesian side in the Peloponnesian Wars was a genuine coalition, while the Athenian side was an empire propped up by Athenian naval power. Sure, Athens produced a lot of great art, but I find it difficult to be sympathetic to either of them, especially given that Athenian "democracy" was really just a somewhat broader oligarchy than the Spartan kind.

The first Google hit you get on "spartan women" concedes they had it better than in Athens (I'll stand corrected), but also includes this:

Marriage for a Spartan woman was an almost non-ceremonial event. The woman was abducted in the night by her suitor, her head was shaved, and she was made to wear men's clothing and lie on a straw pallet in the dark. From there on she would meet with her husband for almost entirely procreative reasons. If she was formerly a girl, she became a woman through marriage. Any Spartan man could abduct a wife, which led to a system of polyandry (many husbands, one wife or vice versa) in Sparta.

Weird, man, weird.

"Remember, though, that this is the Spartan propaganda version of events."

I'm pretty sure it's the Frank Miller version of events, and that the Spartans made few advancements in graphic novels.

Syracuse was not a Spartan colony. It was, rather famously, a Corinthian colony. Perhaps you are thinking of Tarentum, which was, so far as I am aware, the only Spartan colony.

Sorry, you're right: I became confused b/c Corinth was, at the time of the Sicilian campaign, in an alliance with Sparta.

Bob - Thucydides had a pretty notorious beef against Athens, having been exiled from the place. He's also nursing a beef against Cleon and the relatively wild swings of the Athenian democracy.

As the Athenians found out. There was no lack of Athenian resistance to Athenian dynamism, from those who killed Socrates to Aristophanes to Plato.

Absolutely there was this tension.

My argument is not for change for change's sake -- nor utterly opposed to change -- but simply to note that Athens created a society and culture from which we can still draw inspiration today. (It, as they say, held up.) Sparta did not.

Uh, where does that leave Dave Sim?

Wishing he got to write for DC.

That seems immensely unlikely.

Bob:

Almost everything in Sparta was about domestic policy, that domestic policy being the preservation of elite privilege. It was a closed, conservative, static society, but they were not the first or last to value stability and security over growth. Von is giving them a very bad rap. Although I am not one, there are people who think their particular culture is worth preserving, and are willing to pay a very high cost.
Who are the people who want to preserve Spartan culture, and in what manner are they paying that cost, Bob? I can't figure out who you are referring to.

Athens's "allies" were all clients, at best, with hand-picked "democratic" governments of Athenian puppets running things for the benefit of the Athenian treasury.

Democracies favored Athens because they knew that they were always in danger of overthrow by the oligarchs, and needed Athens' support. Oligarchs wanted to overthrow democracies because democracies put the power of the state into a much larger (by orders of magnitude) groups of citizens. (Remember that the rule of the 3000 was considered to be a significant restriction on Athenian democracy during the PP war, and was itself much larger than the 30 tyrants who were considered the oligarchial government of Athens for a time). In other words, your statement that Athens practiced only a different form of oligarchy deprives the word oligarchy of any meaning.

Was Athenian democracy perfect? Surely not. But it was not oligarchial.

'just about every independent government in Greece, with the exception of Sparta's ancient rival Argos, was allied with Sparta. Athens's "allies" were all clients, at best, with hand-picked "democratic" governments of Athenian puppets running things for the benefit of the Athenian treasury.'

This seems a bit circular. And the development of the Delian league was more nuanced as I learned it in school.

"Virtually every independent power worthy of the name took the Spartan side, particularly Corinth and Thebes."

Like Thebes was going to side with Athens. And, well, the fight over Corcyra sort of started the war.

Aw heck, Gary

"...there are people who think their particular culture is worth preserving..."

"Who are the people who want to preserve Spartan culture"

"their" refers to "people" not Sparta. Might have been clearer with a "currently" or "have always been" before "people", but I hadn't realized anyone would think I was referring to Spartan wanna-be's. We are no longer that free.

Who believes their culture is worth preserving?

Paleo-cons? English-only groups? Isolationists, protectionists, traditional marriage protectors, neo-liberals, capitalists, socialists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans?

I have stated that I would end the family as a legal entity. So everybody 'cept me.

"...your statement that Athens practiced only a different form of oligarchy deprives the word oligarchy of any meaning."

And I would contend that if we think Ancient Greece has relevance for us today, a meaning of "conservative" that does not include the preservation of traditions, elites and oligarchs deprives the word of its meaning, since that is what "conservative" meant for millenia, and why Sparta was admired over Athens for centuries. The French nobility did not think Athens were the wise ones.

Conversely, I would say that anything that preserves and protects elites and oligarchs is anti-democratic. For example, inherited wealth or any differences in opportunity based on your parentage. Not sure how Harrison-Bergeronist I would go, but over generations I suspect environmental advantages become genetic advantages.

The rich are taller and healthier and smarter.

Thanks for clarifying, Bob.

Von: Sparta is little more than a second-rate power who, largely by reasons of avarice and envy, all-but-destroyed Athens over the course of the PP war.

And we know this, because Athenian rhetoricians make a point of telling us so.

There are sensible ways and silly ways of comparing Athens and Sparta. One of the silly ways is assuming that everything awful Athenians said about Spartans was quite accurate and completely justified. The Athenians had the better writers - and therefore, historically, have long won the argument.

What advances of science did Spartan domestic society provide*? What great works of art? What insights of philosophy? What aspects of modern civilization do we trace back to Sparta, other than this bizarre hero worship?

They're said to have invented drinking songs. ;-)

I don't mind defending the Spartans. Understand Thucydides, and you know a lot.

What is culture? What is culture for?

The Spartans *only* had dance, music, painting, sculpture, sports, and fighting. Don't think I can prove it, but I would bet the Cro-Magnons had all those things. That is 50, 000 years. Likely every human ever.

Thespis invented theatre in Athens in 530. By 480 Aeschylus hit his stride, Sophocles perfected (IMO), Euripedes and Aristophanes were (IMO) into decadence by 430. One person's lifetime. Shakespeare didn't change that much. This is not genius, this is culture out of control. This is modern.

Like well, 1875-1925. I like Bourguereau to Kandinsky, and Brahms to Webern, and Twain to Joyce. And Freud and Einstein and Weber and Lenin and well...so on. A lot of people found such a rapid rate of change just a little frightening and forboding, and they may have been right, considering what followed. A whole lot of people have not yet caught up with the modern after a century, let alone the post-modern.

And yet that still does equal what the Athenians did, because we have the Athenians as a model. We are not capable of understanding how radical, how revolutionary, the Athenians were.

For Sparta and the rest, I am shocked they let that city live as long as it did. Kill it quick before it spreads.

"The Athenians had the better writers - and therefore, historically, have long won the argument."

I had the impression that the extant Athenian writers actually tend to be critical of Athens, because they were conservatives (as defined at the time) and Athens was a radical place.

Bob, we're also better looking. :-)

Just kidding. I'm not rich.

I would say that anything that preserves and protects elites and oligarchs is anti-democratic. For example, inherited wealth or any differences in opportunity based on your parentage.

well, yeah, sure, but from the top of my head your egalitarianism would have deprived us of the works of Proust, Kierkegaard and Wilde, none of whom would have lasted a day in a proper job without inherited money - I think you're underestimating the culture as decadence phenomenon angle a bit

freelunch: "After the Banana Slugs and the UConn Husky pun, I have a hard time thinking of many team mascots that show originality or appeal."

What about the Butte Pirates?

No joke. Some poor middle- or high-school was saddled with that. Until the Interweb found out.

Funny, as I was watching it, the thing that jumped out to me was, "I'll bet Victor Davis Hanson LOVES this film." Lo and behold...


Here's the evidence: The Butte County Pirates.

From there on she would meet with her husband for almost entirely procreative reasons.

OK, that's extremely strange.

Did Spartan women interact with other men socially? It would seem so, since they owned property and, presumably, managed it, or at least gave orders to whoever else managed it. Spartan women also seem to have taken part in public life, including politics. A very wierd idea of marriage and society emerges here, if you can mingle in mixed society but only see your husband to sleep with him.

Other than this possible (and wierdly contradictory) interaction in public life - which, to be sure, most Athenian women didn't have - I've never heard anything about Spartan culture that sounds at all attractive.

There are sensible ways and silly ways of comparing Athens and Sparta. One of the silly ways is assuming that everything awful Athenians said about Spartans was quite accurate and completely justified. The Athenians had the better writers - and therefore, historically, have long won the argument.

Except with respect to the stand of the 300, and I'm doing my damndest to try to correct that lapse. ;-)

Did Spartan women interact with other men socially? It would seem so, since they owned property and, presumably, managed it, or at least gave orders to whoever else managed it. Spartan women also seem to have taken part in public life, including politics. A very wierd idea of marriage and society emerges here, if you can mingle in mixed society but only see your husband to sleep with him.

I say the following knowing full well that it will be misinterpreted and misapplied by both sides in the so-called culture wars:

There's some evidence that Spartan society viewed heterosexual relationships as less worthy in significant respects than homosexual relationships; and also that heterosexual sex was, well, kinda "beneath" a "real" Spartan man. It went beyond the general acceptance in ancient Greece of pederasty and the like; some (e.g., Kagan [the historian], who admittedly may have an axe to grind) cite it as one basis (and not the exclusive or even main basis) for Sparta's declining birthrate. It may be this context that the author of that passage is trying (obliquely) to get at.

Have I put enough nuance (and parentheticals) in the above to avoid being assaulted by both sides? (What an awful pun.)

And yet that still does equal what the Athenians did, because we have the Athenians as a model. We are not capable of understanding how radical, how revolutionary, the Athenians were.

I understand that completely, Bob. That's why I'm a fan of Athens -- despite its evident flaws.* And I don't think that being a fan of a 2500 year-old bit of radicalism can really be construed as itself "radical" in the present-day sense.

*For clarity, both those flaws chargeable in historical context and those that we find by comparison to our own culture.

The Athenians have all the good historical press because they wrote it. The Spartans didn't bother writing.

They did give us laconism, too rarely practiced anywhere, but quite a virtue.

I had the impression that the extant Athenian writers actually tend to be critical of Athens, because they were conservatives (as defined at the time) and Athens was a radical place.

It's true that many of the commentators were on the outs with Athenian society -- Thucydides, for instance, had been sent into exile -- but I don't know if I'd say that they were mainly conservatives. (Maybe you're confusing Athens with the declining Roman Republic?)

"Funny, as I was watching it, the thing that jumped out to me was, "I'll bet Victor Davis Hanson LOVES this film." Lo and behold..."

Or as I posted at 02:14 PM regarding what I posted, with links to Hanson, last week....

"What about the Butte Pirates?"

It took me a few moments to figure out what was wrong with that; if people want to mispronounce things... well, there will always be 7-year-olds of all ages able to deliberately mispronounce almost anything.

"The Athenians have all the good historical press because they wrote it. The Spartans didn't bother writing."

This seems remarkably like the point Jesurgislac made at 7:21 p.m.:

There are sensible ways and silly ways of comparing Athens and Sparta. One of the silly ways is assuming that everything awful Athenians said about Spartans was quite accurate and completely justified. The Athenians had the better writers - and therefore, historically, have long won the argument.
This thread may be getting too long, when people are repeating each other.

"...if you can mingle in mixed society but only see your husband to sleep with him."

I am going way beyond my expertise here, having only read some primaries but not really many secondaries like Kagan. But I don't think we really know what much about what daily life in Sparta looked like.

My impression is that Spartan males simply rarely went under a roof or left their training mates, so modesty demanded m/f sex be a special and somewhat shameful occasion.
OTOH, my guess is that the Hoplites trained, ate, and slept within sight/sound of the helots, for the sake of order so there was a lot of mingling.

My picture of Sparta is concentric circles:town with merchants and craftsmen, religious buildings etc;farms and women/girls;helot housing;Hoplites in training; and on the outside the exiled young adult males messing and terrifying the Helots. But a male would walk into town several times a day.

Sadly, I tend to hear Walter Brennan's voice whenever someone discusses the Helots.

Not completely sadly, though.

"but I don't know if I'd say that they were mainly conservatives."

My classical education was way too brief and long ago to comment further, except to note I was thinking about Xenophon and psuedo-Xenophon especially and rather simplistically about Plato.

I'm sure this thread is long dead, but I can't resist adding two tidbits:

1. Post-Renaissance Western cultures have long prized Sparta and/or Athens, usually for entirely contemporary reasons. We Americans tend to have sympathy for Athens, without really understanding their culture. Prussia rather famously idolized Sparta in the 19th century. For (what appear now to be) obvious reasons, given the events of 1866-1945.

2. I am an alumnus of a liberal arts college whose "mascot" is (are?) the "Fighting Missionaries." Cartoon representations of him from the 60s showed a fierce man in leather fringe jacket with a musket in one hand and a Bible in the other. And what did reprobate students chant at basketball games?

"Missionaries! Missionaries! We're on top!"

Would that this were a joke, alas.

A friend of mine is from a Philly area school with the mascot of the galloping ghosts (guy in a white suit/robe with a little pointy hat galloping around on a horse). Their major cross town rival is the Black Panthers. Ironically, the racial mixes are exactly the opposite of what one might expect.

I found this article enlightening, though it is more Greek vs Persians than Sparta vs Athens.


And now, we have the movie, which goes even further. In one scene, the Persian Immortals put off their face masks, and they resemble the orcs from The Lord of the Rings. We also see a giant attacking the Spartans. The movie makers deny humanity to the Persians.

If they did so because they wanted to make some sort of sword & sorcery movie, they failed. The point is that there is another innovation in the movie that is not in the comic book: en entirely novel plot line about the Spartan queen Gorgo, who is trying to get reinforcements for the soldiers who are fighting in a far-away country. This message must be dear to the movie makers, because they changed Miller's story, and it is easy to read this as a message to the American cinema audiences.

This is a sincere message - there is nothing wrong with that. But the makers can not have it both ways:
either the movie has a serious message and they honestly believe that Persians can be represented in this way;
or they think that it is just an action movie - but then the political message is gratuitous.
In the first case, they insult the Iranian population, in the second case, the coalition soldiers. Both deserve more respect.


Concerning homosexuality
Wasn't it the position of Athenian "intellectuals" too that heterosexual acts were just means but that the true fulfillment of sexuality was with another man?
Btw, I am not a friend of Platon. The impression I get from his writings is that he simply didn't care for the (human) costs of creating and/or maintaining his "ideal state".
Served him right that the tyrant of Sicily took his recommendation of selling worrysome intellectuals as slaves at heart and sold him. He was to his own embarassment bought and freed by Athens that he despised. :-)

Would just like to take this opportunity to raise a cheer for Epaminondas of Thebes, the Abraham Lincoln of classical antiquity.

Free the Helots!

Was Athenian democracy perfect? Surely not. But it was not oligarchial.

Yes, in Athenian society all citizens were involved in the formation of policy. But citizens were only a tiny percentage of the population of Attica.

In Sparta, on the other hand, all citizens had some say in deciding policy (they got to elect the ephors, among other things), but main power was in the hands of a smaller group of oligarchs. At the same time, citizens, like in Athens, were only a tiny percentage of the population of Laconia and Messenia.

I'm not sure again why the Athenian system is so much preferable. The main bad thing about the Spartan system seems to be true of Athens as well - the vast majority of the inhabitants were not citizens, and had no political rights.

i have one visited sparta and it doesn't look really good and u can see that it was war like

i have one visited sparta and it doesn't look really good and u can see that it was war like

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