Who were the Greek warrior Spartans?

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Who were the Greek warrior Spartans?

The Peloponnesian peninsula sits at the south west corner of Greece, poised like a soccer ball across a narrow peninsula at the foot of mainland Greece. In the easternmost corner of the Peloponnesus, at one time sat the region known as Laconia. The principal city of Laconia was Sparta. These Spartans or Lacedaemonians formed a unique society organized along communal and militaristic principles, a society that has been described by most historians as stagnant and has seldom evoked words of praise. One's first obligation as a Spartan was to the state, and one's noblest virtue was to lay down one's life for the state.

Approximately 600 years before Christ, Sparta was feeling expansionistic pressure due to population growth and food scarcity and consequently launched a westward thrust against its neighboring state, Messenia. Sparta succeeded in conquering Messenia, but this led to a curious situation. What was Sparta to do with these conquered peoples who outnumbered them ten to one? An occupying army meant troops wasted plus the threat of revolt. The solution was to put the conquered Messenians to work laboring in Spartan fields. These Spartan serfs, who came to be known as helots, were to eventually comprise one of the three layers of Spartan society. However, the helots proved to be a constant danger to Sparta, for the danger of revolt was ever present.

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Threatened by Messenian revolt and hostile neighbors, Spartan males were trained from birth to be functioning members of an armed camp. Spartan infants were assessed by the state at birth as to whether they had the robust qualities requisite to become warriors. Weakling infants were left in the mountains to die. Surviving males were thrust into military training at age seven. Made to endure the cold, naked or with minimal clothing, and fed only black broth and rough fare, Spartan boys were encouraged to steal food. The idea was resultant cleverness would help in foraging when, as soldiers, they ...

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