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Spartan: Prosperous But Austere


To make war and to dominate its Greek neighbors, here is what summarizes the statute of the Spartans at the conclusion of the Peloponnesian wars. Its great rival Athens fell, and it is undoubtedly thanks to its model of life that Sparta was able to triumph.

To live as a Spartan, it is to be satisfied with little even if one has much. The citizens of the city of Sparta enjoyed a feudal system in which they drew their incomes from the farms they owned and which were exploited by non-citizens (Hilotes). This situation conferred to them a renewal of time which they could have squandered in idle activities although intellectual like their Athenian neighbors.

The artistic and cultural effervescence of Athens went hand in hand with its opulence. On the contrary, in Sparta, prosperity still rhymed with austerity.

The strong point of the Spartans is that their social system pushed them to cultivate a way of life directed around warlike values. There was no real social promotion of intellectuals or artists. In that, their society resembled strangely those of the European Middle Ages where the warriors were almost exclusively concerned with political and military things. In such a society, the arts are poor, but the citizens are disciplined and focused. They do not waste time on distractions that seem futile to them. What can we learn from these frugal fighters?

The Doing Becomes The Being

What characterizes the Spartans is their propensity for the military thing. Their daily activity and discipline is the illustration of the verb “to do” which becomes the principal component of their identity. As they do, they are. To be a citizen of Sparta is above all to act and train as a Spartan.

Having Destroys Being

On the other hand, nowadays, doing is not quite clear, we are constantly tempted to cultivate having. But having does not really allow us to build being, on the contrary, having destroys being. When we have, we create the false impression of being. Thus, having a library full of books does not make us cultured people or owning a nice car does not make us rich. Having is the illusion of being.

It is only by “doing” that we can define ourselves and not because we possess even if it is commonly accepted. We become what we do and we lose who we are when having dominates our thoughts.

Sparta teaches us the way of the essential, that of action. Strangely enough, it is by forgetting oneself in action that one becomes who one is.

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