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Why do the Spartan forces receive so much credit?

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    Why do they receive so much credit? Do most people think they're great because of what happened at Thermopylae with Leonidas? Also the Thebans and Thespians were present during the battle at Thermopylae, were they not?

    Were the Athenian forces not just as capable? Look at Marathon, the Athenian forces won the battle without the presence of the Spartan forces. The Spartans were slow to act during the Greco-persian wars.
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    Well there was this movie you see.

    Among academics and historians a much more pragmatic view of Sparta's contribution to the overall war was taken, but history is too long to accurately squeeze into a Hollywood blockbuster or popular perception, no matter how exciting or gory it is.

    Basically the Spartans get romanticised.
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    Because of 300.
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    Because 300 actually happened.

    It was 5000 vs 2.5 million persians. So not as over blown as the blockbuster.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Thermopylae
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    (Original post by tamimi)
    Because 300 actually happened.

    It was 5000 vs 2.5 million persians. So not as over blown as the blockbuster.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Thermopylae
    The size of the Persian army is unknown, estimates range from over a million to more modest numbers of around 300,000. I would think the latter is much more likely, and the stories of millions of Persians is exaggerated, but even 300,000 is absolutely huge.

    The Battle of Thermopylae has become somewhat of a legend, and films like 300 easily played of the fact they made a heroic last stand.
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    (Original post by Converse Rocker)
    The size of the Persian army is unknown, estimates range from over a million to more modest numbers of around 300,000. I would think the latter is much more likely, and the stories of millions of Persians is exaggerated, but even 300,000 is absolutely huge.

    The Battle of Thermopylae has become somewhat of a legend, and films like 300 easily played of the fact they made a heroic last stand.
    As far as I'm concerned it meant that the average spartan man produces one thousand times testosterone as his persian counterpart.

    **** Yeah! Ratios!
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    I dont believe it .... nobody used this emoticon yet --> :sparta:

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    (Original post by tamimi)
    As far as I'm concerned it meant that the average spartan man produces one thousand times testosterone as his persian counterpart.

    **** Yeah! Ratios!
    Haha

    I doubt we will ever know the true numbers of the battle, and that includes the amount of help the Spartans had as well as the size of the Persian invaders. I think it's safe to assume they were massively outnumbered though.

    (Original post by Nikstar95)
    I dont believe it .... nobody used this emoticon yet --> :sparta:

    Just beat me to it *Without trying to derail the thread, 300 isn't that good of a film...*
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    The apparent heroism of the Spartan forces at Thermopylae is down firstly to the number of Greeks versus the number of versus Persians. there was a massive difference between the two, secondly Herodotus of Harlicannasus is though to have exaggerated the numbers. Its also about what the battle represented it was a few Greek city states vs a huge empire. Thirdly no one really wanted to go and face the Persians (where were the athenians) but it was the defeat of the forces at Thermopylae that galvanised the rest of the Greek city states into action against the persians, this conjoined effort led to a kind of pan-Hellenism (a kind of nationalism if you like) under which the forces at Thermopylae came to be seen as national heroes, they sacrificed their lives not only for their polis but for the whole of Greece. Finally all the spartans fighting were of the nobility and aristocracy so received more praise due to their higher social standing as was fitting at the time in Greece.
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    Other forces were better, but the Spartans receive a lot of attention because their training/lifestyle was so ruthless. Their entire culture centered around producing warriors with a fearless mindset, and the thing where they left the weak babies to die seems to stick in people's minds. Of course other cultures were also very militaristically minded, but the Spartans are remembered for taking it to the extreme.
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    (Original post by velvetbrain)
    Why do they receive so much credit? Do most people think they're great because of what happened at Thermopylae with Leonidas? Also the Thebans and Thespians were present during the battle at Thermopylae, were they not?

    Were the Athenian forces not just as capable? Look at Marathon, the Athenian forces won the battle without the presence of the Spartan forces. The Spartans were slow to act during the Greco-persian wars.
    Because Spartan armies were universally renowned as the best in the world even in antiquity. It was an entirely military state in which the only valid (and indeed legal) career path for an official citizen was training and military vigour. More specifically we know they were renowned for what is perhaps one of the most risky possible tactics in warfare, namely faking a rout to make your opponents break ranks and a state run and organised compulsory education system designed to make children into good warriors right through to adulthood.

    There military dominance at the time was recognised in the decision that during the Persian wars Sparta had overall command of all land based military undertakings and there is a (probably apocryphal) story that they nearly went to war with Athens in the middle of the Persian war over the fact they didn't have command of the navy as well. As I say probably not true, but it does somewhat underscore the importance of military dominance in Sparta.

    Moreover during the Peloponnesian war both Athenian and Spartan tactics reflected the fact that the Athenians would lose most land battles because they had an inferior (and indeed non-professional) military. Sparta ravaged Attica in the hope they could provoke the Athenians into an out and out pitched battle, the Athenians built walls and secured food supplies so they could simply wait out their campaigning under siege.

    There's was a brutal culture entirely directed around military training and fighting ability, meaning they genuinely did have the best soldiers in antiquity.

    P.S. The props they got at Thermopylae in Antiquity was because Leonidas actually ordered all but the Spartan and Theban contingents to go home rather than having them run. This is on the tail end of no known battle they'd lost for about a century since Tegea.
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    (Original post by victorialou23)
    The apparent heroism of the Spartan forces at Thermopylae is down firstly to the number of Greeks versus the number of versus Persians. there was a massive difference between the two, secondly Herodotus of Harlicannasus is though to have exaggerated the numbers. Its also about what the battle represented it was a few Greek city states vs a huge empire. Thirdly no one really wanted to go and face the Persians (where were the athenians) but it was the defeat of the forces at Thermopylae that galvanised the rest of the Greek city states into action against the persians, this conjoined effort led to a kind of pan-Hellenism (a kind of nationalism if you like) under which the forces at Thermopylae came to be seen as national heroes, they sacrificed their lives not only for their polis but for the whole of Greece. Finally all the spartans fighting were of the nobility and aristocracy so received more praise due to their higher social standing as was fitting at the time in Greece.
    Pan-Hellenism had already started, the other Greek states were there at Thermopylae (indeed the Thebans and the Thespians remained to the final suicide stand [though only the Thespians by choice]) and the Spartans already had unilateral command of the force. Some trite reason about religious festivals is given for not having the full strength of the Greek armies until Plataea, what the actual reason for stalling was will probably never be known.

    Secondly assuming you were a blood-line citizen class is a somewhat more difficult concept in Sparta than it is in say Athens. A massive obsession with competition, meritocracy and whatnot blurs the line. It's very likely a large number of helots (the descendants of the people around Sparta enslaved much earlier indeed) died there too (we incidentally know of at least one being there as a personal attendant) but are forgotten because they were slaves.
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    It has to be because of that film 300, which is almost entirely historically inaccurate (perhaps it was meant to be fictional). I laughed at the parts where they show the Persian king Xerxes as a half naked, bald, pierced, androgynous, voodoo god king!! He was just a typical king with a beard as far as I'm aware.
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    (Original post by velvetbrain)
    Why do they receive so much credit? Do most people think they're great because of what happened at Thermopylae with Leonidas? Also the Thebans and Thespians were present during the battle at Thermopylae, were they not?

    Were the Athenian forces not just as capable? Look at Marathon, the Athenian forces won the battle without the presence of the Spartan forces. The Spartans were slow to act during the Greco-persian wars.
    Hell no. The Spartans were hardcore warriors who were raised from childhood to be great fighters. The Athenians were nothing like this.

    Yes, the Athenians did fend off the Persians earlier on but Xerxes' offensive was much bigger.
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    (Original post by Dirac Delta Function)
    Hell no. The Spartans were hardcore warriors who were raised from childhood to be great fighters. The Athenians were nothing like this.

    Yes, the Athenians did fend off the Persians earlier on but Xerxes' offensive was much bigger.
    At the Battle of Salamis (big naval battle which effectively ended the Persian advance into Greece and to which most of western Europe owes a lot), the Athenians had the majority of the ships - ~200 out of ~360 in total. If the Athenians had left - as indeed they threatened to - then Europe would not be nearly the same as it is today.
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    Excellent responses so far guys.

    Unfortunately I have seen the film 300, I can safely say that it's far from accurate according to Herodotus' sources. I've just discovered something even more ridiculous; http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1253863/

    I have to agree there, the way Xerxes is depicted in the film is laughable.
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    (Original post by Mazzini)
    At the Battle of Salamis (big naval battle which effectively ended the Persian advance into Greece and to which most of western Europe owes a lot), the Athenians had the majority of the ships - ~200 out of ~360 in total. If the Athenians had left - as indeed they threatened to - then Europe would not be nearly the same as it is today.
    Yes, I'm not saying the Athenians were soft, just saying that as warriors the Spartans were on a different level. They had a warrior culture that Athens didn't have.

    Of course European civilisation owes more to Athens than Sparta, not just defending against the Persians but for the incredible intellectual contributions.
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    (Original post by Dirac Delta Function)
    Yes, I'm not saying the Athenians were soft, just saying that as warriors the Spartans were on a different level. They had a warrior culture that Athens didn't have.

    Of course European civilisation owes more to Athens than Sparta, not just defending against the Persians but for the incredible intellectual contributions.
    The Athenians were more well-rounded than the Spartans. The Spartans had to hire a whole fleet from the Persians to defeat the Athenians in the Peloponnesian War because their naval power was negligible.
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    Spartan forces were a little exaggerated to be honest.

    Thermopylae may have been glorified by Herodotus, who was writing 40 years later, and he is the ONLY sources to talk about that particular battle. Not o mention, Sparta actually lost at Thermopylae, and, of course, Spartans saw the loss as a massive victory, as only a Spartan could. All their ideals of bravery and courage were upheld, BUT, if we look at the defeat at Pylos in c.425 BC, it seems that they weren't really as brave and invincible as they claimed to be. They were absolutely slaughtered by Athens and then they surrendered!! Which was like a massive WTF moment for the Spartans back at home. So that shows that they weren't really as good as they claimed to be, and when Pericles spoke of "state induced courage" in one of his speeches he was probably right. Although, they restored their dignity at the Battle of Mantinea in 418, where the Spartan army was forced to fight with a hole in their line! However, in that battle, they used a lot of specialist periocoi troops and freed Helots in regular formation, so most of them weren't even Spartan.
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    (Original post by Mazzini)
    The Athenians were more well-rounded than the Spartans. The Spartans had to hire a whole fleet from the Persians to defeat the Athenians in the Peloponnesian War because their naval power was negligible.
    I really wanted Athens to win. Although, you can't really deny that it was a good move (joining forces with Persia), since their navy absolutely sucked. Athens deserved to win, but they did slack a bit nearing to the end of the war, just look at the Sicilian Expedition and being influenced by people like Alcibiades. *Sigh* at least Sparta got what was coming to them at the battle of Leuctra in 371.

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