Playing by the rules? The importance of obedience in Spartan Society
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Accounts of Sparta from the seventh-century war poet Tyrtaeus through to Roman authors such as Cicero consistently emphasise the importance of obedience in Spartan society.
It was a quality instilled by the Spartan education system – the so-called agōgē– which Plutarch calls “an austere lifestyle, full of hardships, but also one designed to train young men to obey orders”. Obedience continued to be a key feature of adult life, particularly in times of military service, but the Spartans also controlled other adult activities including freedom of speech, and even appearance, with the use of ‘uniforms’, and denial of the right even to make eye contact or smile. Such controls resemble those employed a total institution, a subject this lecture will seek to address.
Andrew Bayliss is Senior Lecturer in Greek History at the University of Birmingham. His interests lie understanding what ancient history can teach us about the modern world. His publications include Oath and State in Ancient Greece (De Gruyter, 2012) and After Demosthenes: the Politics of Early Hellenistic Athens (Continuum, 2011).