Few people don’t know of the Spartans, those rugged warriors who embraced hard living conditions and thrived under it. They were the epitome of manliness, being trained for the military from the age of 6 or 7 in brutal and sometimes life threatening ways. They were world renowned and respected as the best equipped and trained army in the world. They conquered much of their native Greece but the lifestyle they subjected their fellow Greeks to caused them to rise up in a revolution.
The man who formed the Spartan state said he wanted to build a country “from men and not bricks.” This in turn led to the boys being trained in the military from a young age, sometimes 6 or 7. Obviously they were trained with weights, and weapons, but they were also taught how to read and write, although this was viewed as secondary to military training. The warrior had to serve in the military until the age of 30, then they could become a citizen and own land and work in government.
The equipment of a Hoplite was simple, a shield, javelin, and a short sword. The javelins had a sharp, thin head and were thrown en masse by the approaching forces to weed out a few men. The sword was then drawn and hand to hand combat ensued when in range. The shield was by far the most important part of a young warriors kit. It would have been given him by his mother with the instruction to come back with it or on it. The shield was round and would have the Greek letter lamba, a upside down V, standing for Lacedaemon, the mythical first king of Sparta.
Very rarely has a society so wholly embraced a militaristic way of life. In the case of the Spartans, it worked. But only for several hundred years. Eventually their brutal treatment resulted in a revolution that effectively ended Sparta’s claim as a complete state.