Ancient Sparta was a Greek city state well known for its harsh and strict ways of living. Spartans were a warrior people, often engaged in war with their neighbors, including another Greek city state, Athens, as well as the Persian empire. In their time, the Spartans also developed several key inventions in military technology and social order.
The Spartans are best known for their military advancements, and the phalanx, a military formation, is one of their most important. In a phalanx, soldiers form themselves into a rectangle, armed with spears, swords or some other similar weapon. The soldiers then fight closely together, moving forward in a tight formation towards an enemy in order to attack or break the enemy line. The plural of the phalanx is phalanges.
The Spartans were the originators of the military school. Spartan male children were sent to these military academies at a young age — usually 7. The schools were part of the state education system, and boys would remain there until they turned 20. The structure of the system was aimed at developing the boys into warriors, ready to fight and die for Sparta, and the school structure was based on discipline.
The Spartans were the first to employ a form of mandatory military conscription in which Spartan males were required to serve in the military at the age of 18. As they got older, at 20, the men were placed in a military grouping called a "syssitia" where they bonded with other soldiers in order to develop unit discipline and courage. Sparta males remained in active military service until the age of 60.
Sparta did not invent slavery, but they did generate a particular kind of slavery system. In Sparta, helots were captured enemies who were made to work for the Spartans without pay. These slaves had no rights and belonged to the state — not to the landowners themselves. The primary role of the helots was to work on agricultural development — especially increasing the food yield. Each year the Spartans organized a mass beating of the helots in an attempt to keep them in order.
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