Children are Curious to Know: Who Were the Spartans?

Curious Kids, a website that posts inquiries made by the most curious of minds — those of children — recently found themselves answering a question posted by a young reader by the name of Trystan. He wanted an expert to answer his question: “Who were the Spartans?”

It is a loaded question as the Spartans once ruled one of the most powerful and largest cities in Ancient Greece. With such a rich history, it is no wonder that children are interested in learning more about the famous Spartans!

To examine the wonders of who the Spartans were, you need to first travel back in time to 650 BC, when the city-state of Sparta was home to the most dominant military force of all Ancient Greece. It is believed to have first been inhabited in the Middle Neolithic period due to some pottery discovered in the vicinity of Kouphovouno, around 1.2 miles from the Sparta settlement. Excavations at the site in 1906, revealed many structures and a glimpse into the life of the ancient city-state.

Ancient Theatre Sparta, Wikimedia Commons, Attribution: Κούμαρης Νικόλαος

The Spartans were renowned for their lifestyle — separating young children from their families to make them into fighting Spartans. They began teaching their young boys to fight from a very young age and exposing them to a rigorous training program starting at age 7, called “agōgē” to keep them fit for battle. They had to continue their training until they were 29-years-old.

Their obsession with fighting resulted in them becoming experts in battle and gaining the reputation of being fierce, skilled conquerors. They kept guard in governing those they had conquered. An example is that of the “helots” who lived nearby Sparta. Once conquered, these helots were put to work on the farms so that the Spartans could focus even more of their attention on, what else, preparing for battle and improving fighting skills. They recognized their need to be the best in battle as a necessity, especially since any of the groups that they had conquered could revolt.

Having taken part in many crucial battles such as fighting alongside the Athenians against the Persian king Xerxes in the Persian Wars some 2,300 years ago in 490-449 BC, the Spartans were considered masters at their trade.

The now famous movie, 300, which has been remade several times, is perhaps the perfect modern-day telltale of just how extreme and skilled the Spartans were. At the battle at Thermopylae, a group of 300 Spartans, heroically followed their leader King Leonidas to certain death to defend their lands. Although they all died at battle, including their beloved king, the Spartans who remained fought alongside the Athenians and other Greeks to claim victory. Fitting to think that this is how modern society will remember the brave Spartans!

The 300 Spartans

In a turn of fate, in the Peloponnesian War which took place from 431-404 BC, the Spartans fought against the Athenians, and, no surprise here, they won.

Today’s Sparta is a small typical Greek city that has an atmosphere just as its neighboring cities, with shops, schools, villages and more. However, the Spartan history that lies below modern-day Sparta tells an enchanting tale that is intriguing to adults and children alike. Nowadays, one can check out some of the remaining ruins of Ancient Sparta and with a touch of imagination, can be transported back to a time when the Spartans ruled the lands!