Spartan Beliefs

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Information about Spartan Beliefs

Published on March 19, 2009

Author: tomgriffith


Spartan Beliefs : Spartan Beliefs The Mythology and Religion of a Warrior State Spartan Mythology : Spartan Mythology ‘Mythology’ means a story, idea or belief that may be based on reality, but that is largely fantasy. Myths are usually created to tell a story, to pass on morals, or to explain how things came to be the way they are. Even though they are not completely true, myths can tell us a lot about the beliefs of a society, and what things they considered important. Australian Mythology? : Australian Mythology? Can you think of an example of a myth that modern Australians might believe in? Lycurgus : Lycurgus Sparta’s most famous myth is the myth of Lycurgus. Lycurgus may have existed, but it is unlikely that he did all of the things attributed to him by the Spartans. Our only evidence of Lycurgus comes from people who wrote several centuries after he existed. Lycurgus : Lycurgus What parts of Lycurgus’ life are definitely mythical? Why did the Spartans create the myth of Lycurgus? What does this myth show were important qualities/ideas to the Spartans? The Dioscuri : The Dioscuri Dios Kouri means ‘youths of Zeus’ These were twin Spartan heroes called Castor and Polydeuces (Pollux in Latin) Thousands of votive offerings (made of stone or clay) have been discovered, mainly at Amyclae Spartans worshipped them as they represented youth, warfare and athletics The Dioscuri : The Dioscuri The brothers were identical twins yet had different fathers (Greek mythology rarely makes sense!) One was immortal, the other not; so that they could both live forever, they each ‘swapped’ their immortality one day at a time They supposedly still lived in Laconia and protected Sparta The Dioscuri : The Dioscuri What Spartan values did the Dioscuri represent? What would appeal to Spartans about this myth? Why did this myth remain popular with the Romans many years later? Spartan Religion : Spartan Religion ‘We are all Greeks sharing both the same blood and the same language and we have temples of our gods in common and our sacrifices’. Athenians to the Spartans, in Herodotus’ The Histories Gods and Goddesses : Gods and Goddesses The Twelve Olympians, in Greek mythology, were the principal gods of the Greek pantheon, residing atop Mount Olympus. There were, at various times, fourteen different gods recognized as Olympians, though never more than twelve at one time. Can you name any Greek gods? The 12 Olympians : The 12 Olympians Love and beauty Aphrodite Sun Apollo War Ares Hunting and moon Artemis The 12 Olympians : The 12 Olympians Grain and fertility Wisdom Blacksmiths and metal Athena Women and marriage Hephaestus Demeter Hera The 12 Olympians : The 12 Olympians Poseidon Hearth and home Messenger of the gods Hermes Father of the Gods Hestia Sea Zeus Apollo : Apollo Son of Zeus, and God of light, sun, truth, prophecy, archery, medicine, poetry, arts...and the idealisation of beardless youth. This guy was like a rock star in Greece Apollo : Apollo Apollo was especially revered in Sparta: The Spartans were the guardians of the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi The kings appointed pithioi – priestesses of Apollo Apollo was the focus of both the Karneia and Hyakinthia festivals A statue of him has been found at the Amyklaion Why do you think Apollo appealed to the Spartans? Poseidon : Poseidon God of the sea, and of earthquakes, and brother of Zeus and Hades. Poseidon : Poseidon The Spartans: Dedicated a temple to him at Cape Taenaron Made sacrifices to him after an earthquake in 387BC was seen as a sacred sign Artemis Orthia : Artemis Orthia Orthia was a goddess of the city of Sparta. In later times she was combined with Artemis to create this Spartan goddess, associated with childbirth. Artemis Orthia : Artemis Orthia The Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia was one of Sparta’s holiest sites Hundreds of lead and ivory votives have been found near the Eurotas River Orthia was the centre of a bizarre ritual, where youths ran to her altar to snatch as many cheeses as possible...whilst being ritually whipped along the way. (Plutarch and Xenophon) Festivals : Festivals The Spartans were a religious bunch, and their regular festivals (nine major ones a year) were very important events. They were not even allowed to leave the borders of Sparta to fight a war if an important festival was on! The Karneia : The Karneia Held in August Celebrated the harvest or the founding of Sparta (when Heracles’ sons arrived); linked to Apollo A group of men called the straphylodromoi chased a young man wearing a garland. If he was caught, it was a good omen. Feasting, athletic contests and military-style games were also organised. It was because of this festival the Spartans missed the Battle of Marathon. The Gymnopaedia : The Gymnopaedia Held in July. May have been to thank Apollo for military wins, or to initiate young soldiers. Endurance tests were held, such as running and dancing in the heat. By the way, gymnos means naked... The Hyakinthia : The Hyakinthia Held in early summer for three days, at the Amyklaion (a Sanctuary in Amyclae) Originally dedicated to a vegetarian god called Hyakinthos, who was Apollo’s lover... ...he died when Apollo hit him with a discus! Apollo ordered this annual celebration of music, dancing, processions, chariot races, sacrifices and feasts. Even the helots could come along! Temples and Sites : Temples and Sites Not much archaeological evidence remains of Sparta, but the main religious sites we know of were: The Amyklaion (shrine to Apollo and Hyakinthos) The Menelaion (shrine to Helen and Menelaus) Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia (temple in honour of Sparta’s fertility goddess) Of course, Sparta also had close ties to the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi (not in Sparta) Slide 26: Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia Priest Kings : Priest Kings Kings were chief priests of Sparta Considered divine descendants of Heracles Sacrificed to Zeus at borders before making war Offerings to Apollo each month Made sacrifices and offerings Appointed the two pithioi, who consulted the Delphic oracle on matters concerning Sparta Kings were chief priests of Sparta Funerary Customs : Funerary Customs Only warriors who died in battle, or women who died in childbirth, were given a marked grave (Plutarch) All others were buried in nameless graves within the city limits; this was in contrast to other Greek states What do these customs tell us about Sparta? Funerals for Kings(Herodotus) : Funerals for Kings(Herodotus) No government business for 10 days after funeral Women went about Sparta beating cauldrons Crowds of all classes beat their heads and wailed News of death carried by riders all over Sparta One man/woman per household dressed for mourning Laconians forced to attend funeral All declare that king was best Sparta ever had New king cancels all of dead king’s debts

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