Sparta, one of the less documented ancient societies in Greece, was a sparkling and mysterious polis. When comparing Sparta with other city-states - like Athens for example - it becomes clear that Sparta was in many ways exceptional.
Perhaps the most significant feature that differentiated Sparta from Athens was its warrior-class. While the Athenians were enjoying the shade and drinking in the symposium, Spartan men were sprinkling with sweat under the burning sun. When the Athenians were discussing the order of the cosmos, Spartan men were envisioning their next invasion. When Athenian women were confined within the oikos, Spartan women were working on their muscles to compete with mighty cows. To give a slightly out-of-time quote of Napoleon, however, ‘an army marches on its stomach’. You might wonder how Spartan citizens managed not to starve to death if they were busy with physical training all the time. The answer lies in the shadow of Sparta’s warrior society. The lower class of Sparta, collectively named helots, was in charge of agriculture and trade to keep the Spartan society on track.
To avoid the occurrence of such revolts, Spartan young male citizens were trained to slaughter dangerous helots under the cover of the darkness, a practice known as the Krypteia. Allegedly, the Krypteia was the legendary institution aimed to balance and restrain the helots within the Spartan society.
Would you like to learn more about helots, these mysterious strangers in Sparta? Please register here to secure your seat in Shanshan Bai's presentation.
This blog is run by the students who organise the CMEMS Conference. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, one of the students will post a small sneak preview indicating the content of their conference presentation.