3 minutes • 507 words
But if he was thus careful in the education of the stripling, (1) the Spartan lawgiver showed a still greater anxiety in dealing with those who had reached the prime of opening manhood;
considering their immense importance to the city in the scale of good, if only they proved themselves the men they should be. He had only to look around to see what wherever the spirit of emulation (2) is most deeply seated, there, too, their choruses and gymnastic contests will present alike a far higher charm to eye and ear.
On the same principle, he persuaded himself that he needed only to confront (3) his youthful warriors in the strife of valour, and with like result.
They also, in their degree, might be expected to attain to some unknown height of manly virtue.
Their ephors select three male citizens in the prime of life and called them Hippagretai or masters of the horse.
- Each of these selects 100 others, being bound to explain for why he prefers in honour these and disapproves of those.
The result is that those who fail to obtain the distinction are now at open war, not only with those who rejected them, but with those who were chosen in their stead. They keep ever a jealous eye on one another to detect some slip of conduct contrary to the high code of honour there held customary.
And so is set on foot that strife, in truest sense acceptable to heaven for the purposes of state politics.
It is a strife in which not only is the pattern of a brave man’s conduct fully set forth, but where, too, each against other and in separate camps, the rival parties train for victory.
One day, the superiority shall be theirs; or, in the day of need, one and all to the last man, they will be ready to aid the fatherland with all their strength.
Necessity, moreover, is laid upon them to study a good habit of the body, coming as they do to blows with their fists for very strife’s sake whenever they meet.
Albeit, anyone present has a right to separate the combatants. If obedience is not shown to the peacemaker, the Pastor of youth hales the delinquent before the ephors, and the ephors inflict heavy damages, since they will have it plainly understood that rage must never override obedience to law.
With regard to those who have already passed (5) the vigour of early manhood, and on whom the highest magistracies henceforth devolve, there is a like contrast.
In Hellas generally, we find that at this age the need of further attention to physical strength is removed, although the imposition of military service continues.
But Lycurgus made it customary for that section of his citizens to regard hunting as the highest honour suited to their age; albeit, not to the exclusion of any public duty. (6)
His aim was that they might be equally able to undergo the fatigues of war with those in the prime of early manhood.