Saturday, November 18, 2006

Lessons on the hazards of occupation from Sparta

Back in junior high, I remember being taught about Ancient Greece and the Sparta and the Athens and how the Spartans were a cold, militaristic people and the Athenians were cultured and democratic. Turns out my education left something out, how Sparta became militaristic, which has great relevance the fiasco in Iraq. I'm listening to The Teaching Company's excellent course on Ancient Greek Civilization and found that Sparta became a rigid and militaristic people as result of their occupation Messenia.

Prior to this occupation, the Spartans were a more typical Hellenistic Greek society with art and culture. But Sparta's subguation of the Messenian people, which they called helots, forced their society to change. Professor Jeremy McInerney writes in the class notes:

fear of the helots encouraged the
Spartans to develop a close-knit social order directed
mainly toward maintaining the status quo. All Spartan
institutions were devoted to keeping the helots in

The Spartan society became an unpleasant place. Occupation has severe negative effects on the occupier. Something both America should consider as figure out what to do about Iraq.

All the Teaching Company courses, I've bought are excellent. I highly recommend them to anyone who enjoys learning or wants to fill in gaps in their education.

1 comment:

Roundhead said...

“…I highly recommend them to anyone who enjoys learning or wants to fill in gaps in their education…”

I’m also tempted to be snide. This is hardly the whole story about the ancient Hellenes. For the Athenians were, as well, highly militaristic and held slaves – indeed, Rousseau said their possession of slaves gave them the freedom to be “democratic and cultured”, as you say.

As well, Sparta was held in very high esteem by many Atticans, including Plato, who held that polis and not his home town, as the model “republic.” Indeed, Plato wanted to impose censorship on poets and authors, and wanted to abolish democracy.

Does the Teaching Company teach that?