Military in Ancient Greece

Ancient Greeks were considered to be the ones who invented the use of technology in warfare. As a matter of fact, the base of the Military superiority of the civilization of the West was laid by the ancient Greeks.

Ancient Greece Military Weapons

The first such invention was the Phalanx which was used against the Persians. As time passed by, more and more such weapons, as well as warfare tactics, came to be developed by the Greeks. While the Athenians produced very fast triremes, the city-state of Sparta came to be called as the military city-state.

Ancient Greece Military

Spartan

The entire education system in Sparta was centered on the object of creating an authoritarian, military city-state, by producing soldier-citizens who could serve the city-state. In ancient Sparta, the education so provided was of such a nature so as to produce a well-drilled, well-disciplined marching army.

Spartans believed in a life of discipline, self-denial, and simplicity. They were very loyal to the state of Sparta. Every Spartan, irrespective of whether he was a male or a female, was required to have a perfect body.

Ancient Greece Military

Goal of Education

On the other hand, the goal of education in Athens, a democratic city-state, was to produce citizens trained in the arts of both peace and war. Other than requiring two years of military training that began at age 18, the state left parents to educate their sons as they saw fit. Boys attended elementary school from the time they were about age 6 or 7 until they were 13 or 14. Part of their training involved gymnastics.

Spartan soldiers

As a matter of fact, when babies were born in ancient Sparta, Spartan soldiers would come by the house and check the baby. If the baby did not appear healthy and strong, the infant was taken away and left to die on a hillside, or taken away to be trained as a slave (a helot). Babies who passed this examination were assigned membership in a brotherhood or sisterhood, usually the same one to which their father or mother belonged.

Ancient Greece Military

The Spartan boys had to leave home at the age of 7 in order to join disciplined groups under the supervision of a hierarchy of officers. From age 7 to 18, they underwent an increasingly rigorous training.

Spartan boys were sent to military school at age 6 or 7 where they lived, trained and slept in their barracks of their brotherhood. At school, they were taught survival skills and other skills necessary to be a great soldier. School courses were very hard and often painful.

Although students were taught to read and write, those skills were not very important to the ancient Spartans. The boys had to march without shoes to make them strong. Such kind of brutal training was given to them.

Lifestyle of Greek Peoples

Apart from this, they were made to walk barefoot, sleep on hard beds, and work at gymnastics and perform other physical activities such as running, jumping, javelin and discus throwing, swimming, and hunting. They were also subjected to strict discipline and harsh physical punishment; indeed, they were taught to take pride in the amount of pain they could endure.

Ancient Greece Military

They were subjected to strict discipline and harsh physical punishment and were taught to take pride in the amount of pain they could endure. At the tender age of 18, Spartan boys became military cadets and learned the art of warfare.

On attaining 20 years of age, they joined the state militia, which was a standing reserve force available for duty in time of emergency in which they served until they were 60 years old. Between the ages of 18 to 20, Spartan males had to pass a difficult test of fitness, military ability, and leadership skills.

A Spartan male who did not pass these examinations became a Perioikos. The Perioikos, or the middle class, were allowed to own property, have business dealings, but had no political rights and were not citizens.

Ancient Greece Military

Spartan citizens

If they passed, they became a full citizen and a Spartan soldier. Spartan citizens were not allowed to even touch money as that was considered to be the job of the middle class. Spartan soldiers spent most of their lives with their fellow soldiers. They ate, slept, and continued to train in their brotherhood barracks.

Even if they were married, they did not live with their wives and families. They lived in the barracks. Military service did not end until a Spartan male reached the age of 60. At age 60, a Spartan soldier could retire and live in their home with their families.

Ancient Greece Military

Unlike the other Greek city-states, Sparta provided training for girls as well which went beyond the domestic arts. Though the girls did not have to leave their homes, yet otherwise training was similar to that of the boys as they too learned to run, jump, throw the javelin and discus, and wrestle mightiest strangle a bull.

Such was the importance of the military in the ancient Greek civilization that in spite of giving somewhat secondary status to women, yet when it came to preparing a male or female for the purpose of serving the state, the ancient Greeks particularly the Spartans did not practice any gender bias of any kind.