By Elizabeth Rawson
Historical polemics on Sparta (by Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, and others) have had a notable afterlife within the political and academic considered Renaissance Italy, the France of the Philosophes, Whig England, and Nazi Germany. This e-book outlines the little we all know of historical Sparta, describes Greek response to the ambiguous associations of the good rival to democratic Athens, makes a primary try to persist with the next fortunes of the controversy, and shows Sparta's role--over twenty-five centuries--in the highbrow historical past of Europe.
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Extra resources for The Spartan Tradition in European Thought (Clarendon Paperbacks)
Other supposedly ascetic practices seem either to be archaic usages, sometimes of a basically religious nature, that persisted here alone, or propagandist statements by late moralists without any basis in fact. Others may be the result of a special crisis, such as the years of pressure and isolation in the middle of the fifth century. Perhaps the xenelasiai, -8- or orders for the expulsion of foreigners, which so annoyed the inquisitive Athenians, were one custom that only became common now. But it is easily understandable that close control was also kept over Spartiates wishing to travel abroad; their country needed them too much.
It is uncertain how reliable may be stories that infant toughness was tested by means of baths in wine or icy water, but it is perhaps true that the decision to rear or destroy a child lay not with the father but with the elders of his tribe. At the age, probably, of seven the boy who had survived these hazards entered a 'herd' or agela, under the supervision of -5- an older boy (with the right to beat his juniors) and ultimately of a magistrate, the paedonomus, but also of any citizen who happened to be present.
Properly meaning 'soundness of mind', it is a concept central to Greek morality, with its fear of any kind of excess and its tendency to merge moral and intellectual terms. In politics it is to become a watchword of anti-imperialist and anti-democratic thought. Herodotus himself has a warm admiration for both the great Greek cities and their part in the Persian wars. His curiosity about Sparta, which he had visited, as something sui generis is probably significant of his date, as well as nourished by the ethnographic literary tradition upon which early historiography built.
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