Thanks in part to the fight of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., in i beg your pardon a small force of Spartan soldiers remained behind come fight come the death versus a vastly larger Persian army, the warrior of Sparta have long been famed for their military prowess and tenacity. Also today, the word “Spartan” conjures up picture of an awesomely fit, sent fighter, indifferent come pain and also fear.

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“Other city states had actually fine armies,” explains Kimberly D. Reiter, an combine professor of old and medieval background at Stetson University. “Sparta was well-known by most as the best.”

How did the Spartans come to be so awe-inspiring? One element was the agoge, the Greek city-state’s educational and training system, which used harsh, extreme and also sometimes cruel techniques to prepare boys to it is in Spartan citizens and also soldiers.

“The agoge aimed to instill soldierly virtues: strength, endurance, solidarity,” as the so late Canadian historian Mark golden wrote. But it achieved all the at an excellent cost, by turning Spartan boys’ childhood into what now would be viewed as a traumatic experience.

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A Spartan woman saying good-bye to her young child who is going turn off to war. 

Universal Archive/Getty Images

According to the ancient Greek historian Plutarch, who wrote numerous centuries after ~ Sparta’s heyday in the 400s B.C., Spartans began arising soldiers quickly after birth, once male infants were evaluated by Spartan elders. The “well-built and also sturdy” kids were permitted to live, when those who were deemed unhealthy or deformed to be left at the foot the a mountain to die.

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At age seven, Spartan boys were turned over by their parents come the state, where they to be organized into companies that lived, studied and also trained together.

“The boy who excelled in judgement and was many courageous in fighting was made captain the the company,” Plutarch wrote. “The rest all kept their eyes on him, obeying his orders and submitting to his punishments, so your boyish training was a practice of obedience.”

Plutarch illustrated Spartan boys together receiving small schooling. But Stephen Hodkinson, an professor emeritus the ancient at the university of Nottingham, UK, states there are hints in various other sources that they received “the typical Greek elementary education in reading, writing, numbers, song and also dance.”

To toughen lock up even more, Spartan boys were compelled to walk barefoot and also seldom bathed or provided ointments, so that their skin came to be hard and dry, Plutarch wrote. Because that clothing, castle were provided just one cloak to wear year-round, to do them find out to endure heat and cold, and made their very own beds indigenous plants the they had to rip the end of the ground with their ceiling hands from flow banks.

According to Plutarch, together the young Spartans grew, they were required to exercise an ext and more to construct their bodies. Together Donald G. Kyle note in his publication Sport and also Spectacle in the ancient World, Spartan youth had to existing themselves for consistent inspections in the nude, and also boys that didn’t look sufficiently fit to be flogged.