With reference to sources, what does the evidence reveal about Spartan cultural life? There were many different aspects to the Spartan cultural life which ancient sources and evidence have provided insight and knowledge for our modern societies. These features include art, architecture, writing and literature, and Greek writer’s views of Sparta. The Spartan cultural life also gives us knowledge into other aspects of Spartan life and the society in which they lived. Architecture was one of the essential parts of the Spartan cultural life. The main sites for Spartan architecture were Amyklaios, the Menelaion and the sanctuary of Artimis Orthia.
The sanctuary of Apollo Amyklaios, five kilometres south of Sparta was populated from prehistoric times. It was until the roman period was the second most important political and religious centre of Sparta. One of the most important Spartan festivals, the Hyakinthia which took place at the Amyklaion, It symbolizes the political reconciliation of Doric Sparta (Apollo) with the Achaian population of Amyklai (Hyakinthos). It was first excavated by archaeologist Chr. tsountas, in 1890. The Menelaion was a shrine to Helen and Menelaos, the legendary figures of the Trojan War.
It was located 5 kilometres out of Sparta, on top of a hill. The remain of an early Mycenaean palace have been found only a few meters from the site, There is also evidence leading to believe that it was destroyed by earthquakes and fire at least twice during the bronze age. At the site of the shrine there has been Votive offerings found to Helen and Menelaos, they date back to the late eight century. When Pausanius himself visited Greece, the Menelaion was in ruins. The Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia is located along the bank of the Eurotas River on the outskirts of Sparta.
It had a temple and an altar. Finds from the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia have been used by historians to disprove the traditional picture of Spartan austerity before the late sixth century BC. They include many hoplites and women, many lead figurines as well as other votive offerings made of clay, bronze, silver, gold and ivory. During the roman times a theatre was built for tourists who came to watch re-enactments of flogging rituals. The Sanctuary dates from the tenth century BC but was rebuilt in the second century AD, and was renovated in the following century.
The site of The Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia was first excavated by archaeologists from the British school at Athens between 1906 and 1910. R. M. Dawkins tells us, ‘’The sanctuary of (Artemis) Orthia at Sparta underwent many changes in the long period from the beginning of the cult in perhaps the tenth century BC down to its final abandonment at some quite uncertain date… [As] digging proceeds from the surface downwards, to reach what is early it must first pass through what is late: the order of discovery is, in fact, precisely opposite to the order of time. ’ This tells us that the site went under many changes in the long period from the begging to the end of its life. The Architecture in the Spartan cultural life is significantly important, in the role of history. Writing and literature actually written by Spartans is hard to come by for this period. For this significant period of time in which Sparta was at high power in the Greek world, the only two remaining Spartan literacy sources are fragments of the poetry of Alcman (Alkman) and a few complete poems and some fragments of works by Tyrtaeus (Tyrtaios).
Tyrtaios and Alcman both lived and wrote in Sparta around the end of the seventh century BC, in which followed the Second of the Messenian War. There are some clues in some fragments, of his poetry that he might have been from Sardis, the capital of the kingdom of Lydia in Asia Minor. His poetry reflects a cultured, prosperous society that was open to foreign influences. ‘’ Sparta was not yet the military state it later became but a home of music and poetry.
Spartan literature began in the seventh century … It is from Sparta that we have our earliest substantial fragments of choral lynic which are the wolf of Alcman…. The longest fragment of Alcman consists of the hundred or so lines, complete or partial, of his parthenion or maiden song. It seems to have been sung by a choir of girls at a religious festival before dawn, competing in music and beauty with another choir… Its swift simplicity, brilliant images and melodic beauty convey the grace and gaiety of an archaic world. ‘’ This quote from A.
M. Davies about Alcman speaks to the audience; it helps us understand Alcman’s true beauty within poems that was felt by the reader. Tyrtaeus was another ancient Sparta writer, Historians and archaeologists have discovered about 12 fragments by Tyrtaeus including at least three complete poems , have been preserved in books by Strabo and other writers. Most historians date Tyrtaeus’ poems to the period of the second Messenian war. (c. 650 BC).
His writing was written to praise the Spartan constitution and to encourage heroism in Sparties. A. esky expresses his emotions towards Tyrtaeus’ poetry, ‘’ it is as the advocate of steadfastness in battle that Tyrtaeus appears in the extant poems. His kind of poetry… has been well characterized as propaganda poetry. The hearer is constantly exhorted to march forward boldly, to grit his teeth, to fight bravely hand to hand, to endure until death , which is the warrior’s greatest glory. ’’ This expresses A. lesky’s opinion on Tyrtaeus’ poetry. Writing and literature through both ancient sources and evidence proves to be extremely important to the Spartan culture and community.
There is now significant archaeological as well as historical evidence that the Spartans enjoyed an artistic period. There were three different types of artwork throughout Laconian art; sculpture, vases and bone and ivory carving . Its artistic achievements were renowned throughout the world. At least nine sculptures are known by name, and the Spartan bronze products were of such high quality that they were viewed as diplomatic gifts and found their way to far corners of the world. One type of art was laconian.
Laconian pottery was for a period of time valued to be a significant export commodity. Beautiful examples of laconian art still exist, providing sufficient evidence of the very high quality of both the pottery and painting. Artworks such as ‘’Two Spartan warriors and a woman in mourning ‘’and ‘’a bronze statuette of a Spartan running girl ‘’are examples of both bone and ivory carving and statues. Vases were yet another aspect of art for the Spartans, and an example of a vase would be ‘’Clay amphora, 7th century BC’’.
Art from the Spartan culture has influenced artists and artwork around the world. Greek writer’s views on Sparta were very important. Their views shape the way we see certain aspects of the Spartan Cultural life. Specific writers include Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophen, Aristotie, Pausunas and Plutarch. All of which have extensive views and opinions on Sparta. Through the examining of both ancient texts and evidence Greek writers have revealed their personal unique opinions n Sparta. Herodotus is often considered to be the first real historian of the ancient world.
Herodotus asked questions and where possible he gathered evidence, His main purpose was to investigate the Persian wars, but he tells us much more. Herodotus tells us about what he found out about the customs and ways of life of the different peoples involved in Spartan history. Thucydides views on Sparta generally placed himself over the topic of history of war not an analysis of Spartan Society.
Thucydides makes a statement about his writing; ‘’ on the whole, however the conclusions I have drawn from the roofs quoted may, I believe , safely be relied on …. [ W]e can rest satisfied with having proceeded upon the clearest data, and having arrived at conclusions as exact as can be expected in matters of such antiquity… And with reference to the narrative of events, far from permitting myself to derive it from the first source that came to hand, I did not even trust my own impressions, but it rests partly on what I saw myself, partly on what other saw for me, the accuracy of my report being always tried by the most severe and detailed tests possible.
My conclusions have cost me some labour from the want of coincidence between accounts of the same occurrences by different eye witnesses, arising sometimes from imperfect memory, sometimes from undue partiality for one side or the other’’ Xenophen is a very useful source of information on Spartan society because he fought alongside the Spartans as an Athenian; Xenophon’s anabasis is a history of his experiences dating from 401 BC. Xenophon’s work deals with the Spartan society in general. Aristotle is one of Plato’s most gifted students; he was an influential philosopher and natural scientist.
Aristotle’s opinion on Spartan society was generally critical, seeing defects throughout the Spartan system. In his politics, Aristotle commented on Spartan society and politics. At the same time his writing favoured the Spartan constitution. Pausanias wrote description of Greece, he was a traveller and geographer. Pausanias gives a detailed description of Roman Sparta and the accuracy of his observations is confirmed by modern geographical studies and by archaeology;but there is a problem with his description is that if often fails to distinguish between Roman remains and earlier Spartan remains.
The last Greek writer is Plutarch; Plutarch was an essayist and priest who travelled widely. His books of essays, Moralia, and Lycurgas, from lives, are amongst several of his works that deal with Sparta. Plutarch’s work is valuable because is frequently based on earlier books that were lost. But it must be remember Plutarch lived 1000 years after the earliest event he describes. All these ancient writers had their own personal experiences and opinions to be able to write certain aspects on Sparta, But although the source may seem correct there is always the chance the writer is not accurate.
Greek writers shaped the views in which our modern society takes on the ancient world of Sparta. The Spartan Cultural life played an important role in the life of Spartans as it included many aspects of their daily The features of the Spartan Cultural life included art, architecture , writing and literature and Greeks writers views of Sparta . With the use of ancient sources and evidence, the modern society has gained insight into what truly was involved in the Spartan’s Cultural life.