ATHENS AND SPARTA A CONTRAST IN CULTURE

MEANWHILE at Sparta a very different kind of state had developed. It has well been said that the Spartans became " the slaves of their own conquests." They were a small military caste, holding down a mass of mutinous serfs, and all their institutions were designed for the training of soldiers. Male children were destroyed if they had the slightest physical blemish. At the age of seven the boys were taken from their parents and given a training rather like that of the English public schools in the early nineteenth century, when physical fitness and undemonstrative courage were cultivated at the expense of literature and the arts. The boys had their own officers, corresponding to the prefects at English schools, whose duty it was to set an example of hardy endurance and to ensure discipline by severe punishments. The women matched the men in courage, and showed no emotion save pride if their children were killed in battle. A Spartan mother, when sending her son to war, would point to his shield and say, " With it or on it," implying that victory or death were his only alternatives. (The words " With it or on it " are a typical example of the " laconic "from Greek Lacon or Lacedaemonian style of speech on which the Spartans prided themselves). The people became invincible in war, but the cost was high, for they never developed any broad views of Greek patriotism, and took no part in the glorious march of Greek civilisation. The testing time for Athens soon came. She had helped the Greek cities in Asia Minor which had been conquered by the Persians in 546 B.C. and had revolted just after 500 B.C. Darius, realising that he would have no peace while there were free Greeks on the west of the Aegean, sent a large fleet bearing an army which landed at Marathon, on the coast of Attica. The Athenians sought help from Sparta, but before it could come they had fought and won. The first attempt on Greek liberty had been repulsed (490 B.C.).