National Geographic : 1944 Mar
Young Spartans Were Tough AFTER the age of seven, Spartan boys no longer lived at home, but were brought up by the state in barracks, under the charge of a pai donomos, or governor. Their schooling was slight so far as reading and writ ing were concerned. On the other hand, their physical training was of a severe order. From the time they were twelve they were allowed only a single garment, winter or summer, and for bedding they used rushes which they gathered for them selves on the banks of the Eurotas River. Quarrels were encouraged among them and fights promoted, so that it went hard with any who were not able to take punishment. Military exercises were preferred to purely ath letic sports, and all training was cal culated toward strengthening the youth for bearing arms and enduring the rigors of a long campaign. On the feast of Artemis Orthia, some of the older youths were flogged at her altar so as to give an example of for titude to the rest. The young men were not allowed to marry until they were about 30 years of age. During all that time they continued to live with their units and to eat in the common mess. In fact, all citizens were required to take one meal a day at an eating club and had to provide, in grain and wine, their share of the provender, on penalty of losing their status as citizens. The girls were also given rigorous physical training so that they might become the mothers of healthy chil dren. When a man married, he con tinued to live in barracks for some time and used to visit his wife secretly at night. Newborn children were reared only if perfectly formed; the weaklings were thrown from a cliff of Mount Taygetus. Although the old story of the Spar tan boy who concealed a stolen fox under his chlamys (stealing was en couraged as long as the offender escaped detection) may not be true, it is typical of the code under which the youths were trained. As every schoolboy knows, the boy, rather than be caught carrying stolen goods, allowed the fox to tear at his body. No Spartan could engage in trade. That was reserved for the Perioeci, who lived in Lacedaemon but were not citizens, and for the servant class, the Helots, who were in much the same condition as the medieval serf and were bound to the soil. They usually accompanied their masters on mili tary expeditions, acting as armor bearers and camp servants. When the Spartans went to war, they al lowed their hair to grow, as an indi cation that to them war was a luxury. The economic difficulties which arose in the later period of Sparta's history when women could and did inherit property, and in fact con trolled a great deal of it, led ulti mately to the downfall of the state. Many of the Spartan citizens became so impoverished that they could not supply their share of rations at the common mess and accordingly were deprived of their rights as citizens. As a result, when the political power of Sparta reached its height in the fourth century B.C., the supply of Spartiates had diminished to such an extent that they were no longer able to fill all the necessary posts and supply the garrisons which were needed. Their code had been admi rably adapted for a small state, but it lacked the elasticity needful to adapt itself to changing conditions.