Illustrious is the battle fought by the Spartans at Thermopylae. The heroic sacrifice of the few against many has always easily aroused quite a stir. Here, however, in addition to historical events, you’ll want to investigate in particular the principles, such as the concept of civilization and life, for which the Spartans fought tenaciously against the Persian invasion. It’s considered important to analyze this episode because, given the obvious parallels with today’s events, the reader could obtain some food for thought or guidance.
Sparta and the relationship with its subjects and foreigners
The Spartans, before the Persian threat, were strangers to the tendency to isolate themselves, not to mix with different populations. When Doric people subdued Laconia, then populated by the Mycenaean, the defeated peoples, were subdivided into Perioeci and Helots. The perioeci, whose name, Περίοικοι, means “inhabitants around”, were granted personal freedom, but not political one, and the opportunity to practice trade and craft activities. The latter, the Helots, from Εἱλῶται, the “taken”, the “losers”, was imposed a far more miserable fate: subject to the Spartans, they were reduced to the hard work of the fields. They differed from slaves only to the fact of not being killed for no reason, nor being sold outside the Laconia. The number of helots was always considerably higher than the aristocratic caste Spartan (1). On the other hand the Spartans, given the numerical minority in the face of a mass of their subjects, were obliged to a constant and perpetual armed defense.
This principle of placing an outnumbered conquered population was often used and often ignored in ancient times. When the absolute not mix was placed in the State, populations were maintained always firm and undamaged. But when the integration and tolerance were left to act without restraint, the people who suffered such processes quickly decayed into the softness of morals and materialism. The way of tolerance in Sparta could have guaranteed a situation of calm and relaxation when foreigners were vanquished and were allowed contracts of mixed marriages or the acquisition of political rights. However, this would only lead to the end of the Dorian original tradition. For having understood that behind the mixing of races is the first reason to decay, caste Spartan preferred a constant mobilization to laxity and the leveling of tolerance that, ultimately, would lead to the integration spontaneously.
This suggests that the Spartans had for centuries the utmost care of his aristocratic lineage and ethics, founded on discipline, on the heroic spirit and intransigence. To keep alive the warrior spirit, the Spartans had all their cards on the ongoing military training, the rigidity of the laws and the integrity of the community. He allowed himself to others – subject – the menial jobs. In Sparta it was not even allowed access to writers and philosophers, and businesses and the arts were banned. Indeed, idleness by scholars and rationalism collide with rude warrior ethics of.
It can be said that what characterizes Sparta is the see anyone not part of the race as an “enemy” as a danger, as something that absolutely must be annihilated, if not held liable, otherwise the mingling, the lost of the original integrity the decay of morals. In fact, the Spartans called foreigners not so much with the term βάρβαρος, “barbaric”, but with ξένος, xenos, and for other peoples Hellenes was intended as today, but the Spartans must think that the term ξένος had to connect more to concept of alien enemy, when they do not spy.
Historical Considerations about the Persian invasion
The battle of Thermopylae was fought – as it is known – by a small contingent of three hundred Spartan units led by King Leonidas, plus a few hundred other Greek allies, in response to the threat that loomed over Greece and the West by the Empire ruled by the Persian king Xerxes.
The battle lasted three days and took place in August of 490 BC The invasion of Greece by the Persians, was evidence not only for the Spartans, but also for all Greeks, a circumstance completely new since the Lacedaemonians never moved war far from the corner of the historic region of Argolida (2).
At the eve of the Persian invasion, Sparta was about to collide against an enemy that, given the overwhelming numerical superiority, forced a serious answer from all Greeks. This enemy, whose borders stretched from India to Macedonia, aspired to Hellas submission and then gradually the West into the Atlantic.
The spirit of Thermopylae
In Sparta, there were no philosophers, writers, poets; there was no democracy and rights; He practiced not the trade or the growth of wealth. So you are to consider, according to modern canons, the Spartan as a culture were “poor” and “backward.” What brought about such a strong defense in the face of the Persian invasion threat? What did they have to defend the Spartans, if not, to behold, a rude civilization? The reasons are various, but it amounted to a single essence.
First of all, we must note that even the Spartans took into account the proposal of the Persians of a mixed peace into submission. The no acquitted of all conditions was due to blind consideration that the Spartans had their laws, their state and their freedom. How prevailed all attention in preventing the mixing due to the new, the different, the inside of the rigid caste Lacedaemonians, even more so, by analogy, it would absolutely prevent the innovations that would certainly have made a possible Persian invasion of Greece. Although foreign rule would have meant a far greater humiliation as well as the acceptance of a superior suffered in weakness. For a state founded on force and on the aristocracy, like the spartan everything would indicate the most obvious defeat.
In front of the reasons listed above, there is a but transcends them. The Spartans sensed the threat of Xerxes as the bearer of a tyrannical rule, which would certainly have relied on an eastern feel, servitude, of equality by leveling down; sensed, just as happened to the Mycenaean their subjects, two races, two cultures, if brought into contact with no brakes, they are osmotically ready to blend, and then get lost.
In light of this, the Spartan community fought – prior to that of laws issues, the hegemony of the ground – to ensure the survival of the heroic conception of man ἀνήρ – vir – the single alien feelings and pain, capable to accept death like any other minimal suffering, man dell’ἐγκράτεια, “doricamente” balanced format. Conservation, therefore, of themselves, of aristocratic lineage and dignity, against mixing threatened eastern invasion, bringing the concept of mass and ἄνθρωπος –homo – individual, that the Spartans had the deepest respect.
That’s fidelity and witness to this superior view of life and of man that the three hundred Spartans had no kindness to die at Thermopylae, in front of a certain defeat.
(1) There is talk of a 1: 7 ratio.
(2) At that time, when he gave battle, usually the reasons were due to the dispute of a port, a shrine or a portion of fertile land, or a demonstration of the supremacy of one camp to another. In addition, there is to be observed as the Greeks until then had fought each other only in clashes between hoplites, where it tended to adhere to a certain code of honor, with two armies relatively limited in number, and the number was limited of the fallen, and now you threw in a mass confrontation. In favor of the Greeks, it is necessary to consider how, in equal numbers, these were undoubtedly superior to the Persians. More, than the other Hellenes, the Spartans fielded their iron discipline and the will to fight to the death. Fight to the death – it is stated – in Sparta since the law imposed the death or victory, since the retreat was not covered.Noted in this case is the motto terse “Come back with your shield or on it.”
The return of Eracliti, U. Nisticò, and. Ar, (1978)