Thanks in component to the fight of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., in which a tiny force that Spartan soldiers stayed behind come fight to the death against a vastly larger Persian army, the warriors of Sparta have long been renowned for their armed forces prowess and also tenacity. Even today, the word “Spartan” conjures up an image of an awesomely fit, sent fighter, indifferent come pain and also fear.

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“Other city states had fine armies,” defines Kimberly D. Reiter, an associate professor of old and medieval background at Stetson University. “Sparta was known by many as the best.”

How go the Spartans come to be so awe-inspiring? One aspect was the agoge, the Greek city-state’s educational and training system, which used harsh, extreme and sometimes cruel techniques to prepare boys to it is in Spartan citizens and soldiers.

“The agoge aimed come instill soldierly virtues: strength, endurance, solidarity,” together the late Canadian chronicler Mark golden wrote. But it completed all the at good cost, by transforming Spartan boys’ childhood right into what this day would be seen as a traumatic experience.

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Training began at very early Age


A Spartan mrs saying goodbye to she young son who is going turn off to war. 

Universal background Archive/Getty Images

According come the ancient Greek historian Plutarch, that wrote several centuries after Sparta’s heyday in the 400s B.C., Spartans began emerging soldiers shortly after birth, when male infants were evaluate by Spartan elders. The “well-built and also sturdy” youngsters were permitted to live, if those who were reputed unhealthy or deformed to be left at the foot the a hill to die.

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At age seven, Spartan guys were turned over by their parents to the state, whereby they to be organized into companies that lived, studied and trained together.

“The boy who excelled in judgement and was many courageous in fighting to be made captain the the company,” Plutarch wrote. “The remainder all retained their eyes on him, obeying his orders and submitting to his punishments, so their boyish training to be a exercise of obedience.”

Plutarch shown Spartan boys as receiving small schooling. But Stephen Hodkinson, an professor emeritus of ancient at the university of Nottingham, UK, says there are hints in various other sources the they obtained “the conventional Greek elementary education and learning in reading, writing, numbers, song and dance.”

To toughen lock up also more, Spartan boys were compelled to walk barefoot and also seldom bathed or used ointments, so that their skin became hard and also dry, Plutarch wrote. Because that clothing, they were offered just one cloak come wear year-round, to do them find out to endure heat and cold, and made their very own beds native plants that they had actually to rip the end of the ground through their bare hands from river banks.

According to Plutarch, together the young Spartans grew, castle were required to exercise more and much more to construct their bodies. As Donald G. Kyle notes in his book Sport and Spectacle in the old World, Spartan youth had actually to current themselves for regular inspections in the nude, and boys who didn’t look sufficiently fit were flogged.