Daily Life in Sparta

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  • 0:04 A Militaristic Society
  • 0:25 Sparta Develops
  • 1:03 A Soldier's Life
  • 3:01 The Spartan Lifestyle
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jeffery Keller

Jeff has taught US and World History at the high school and college levels for nearly ten years and has a master's degree in history.

In this lesson, you'll learn about the daily life of the people in Sparta, including their work, clothing, marriage customs, diet, leisure activities, and militaristic culture.

A Militaristic Society

Imagine living in a world where your entire life was dedicated to military service beginning at age seven—a world without art, music, travel, trade, or literature. This was the reality faced by many people living in ancient Sparta, a militaristic society focused only on military strength. But, what was it like living in such a society?

Sparta Develops

The people of Sparta lived in an area called the Peloponnese, a peninsula connected to mainland Greece. Spartans migrated here area around 1000 B.C.E., and by 700 B.C.E. they had conquered their neighboring cities, turning the native populations into helots, or peasants who were somewhat like slaves. These helots greatly outnumbered the Spartans themselves. As you might imagine, having so large a population of slaves made the Spartans constantly fearful of an uprising. To prevent this, the Spartans spent much of their time on training for military service. This focus on a well-trained military impacted every aspect of Spartan society.

A Soldier's Life

Like most ancient cultures, life in Sparta varied based on whether you were a male or a female. Between ages five and seven, boys would be examined. Unhealthy children would be killed, and healthy children would be taken from their parents to live in military barracks to begin their training. This training was meant to toughen up the new soldiers. Imagine being told you had to steal food to survive and then being beaten if you were caught! That's what happened to Spartan boys. This was meant to teach them to be stealthy.

When training was complete, males remained with the military day and night until around age 30, when they could get married and spend nights with their wives. However, they still spent much of their time in military service or training. In the evenings, these men were required to eat with their military brothers in small groups called messes.

No Business Allowed

Aside from military training, Spartan men participated in almost no other occupations. In fact, Spartans were absolutely forbidden to participate in any sort of trade or business because they believed that these were activities fit only for the helots who produced all that Spartans needed to survive. Wealth was frowned upon, and the Spartan government banned precious metals such as gold and silver and refused to allow citizens to use coins. Spartans lived in relative equality, possessing no money or luxury goods. Their lifestyle was so simple that today a life without luxury is sometimes referred to as a ''Spartan lifestyle.''

Spartan Women

Unlike other societies, Spartan women were actually allowed to be educated. Women would learn to dance, do gymnastics, and sing, but most of the focus was on physical training, including wrestling and throwing javelins. Spartans believed that strong, physically fit women would give birth to strong, physically fit babies. Women ran the households while men were away at war or in training, but they never participated in any occupations such as making clothing or working wool. This was because the ancient Spartan king Lycurgus had decreed such jobs as fit only for slaves.

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