The Spartans of Ancient Greece were drilled in fortitude. They were austere and tough and lived under a code of laws that stressed hardiness and devotion to the state. Sparta was a city-state that excelled in and was governed by military perfection. Weak or disabled infants were left to die of exposure; the arts, considered enfeebling, were banished; military training began at age seven. Schoolchildren have marveled at a story of a Spartan boy who, having stolen a fox and hidden it under his cloak, stood stock still while the fox gnawed out his innards.
   Sparta lay in an open plain with no natural barriers to protect it, no hills for an enemy to have to climb, no rivers to be crossed, and no dense woodland to act as a natural shield for the city. As a result the Spartans were devoted to building and maintaining an army.
   An ambassador from another state once asked Lycurgus why Sparta had no walls around it. "But we do have walls," replied the Spartan monarch, "and I will show them to you." He led his guest to the field where the army was marshaled in battle array. Pointing to the ranks of men, he said: "There are the walls of Sparta, and every man is a brick." We use such terms as Spartan courage, the enduring of great discomfort or pain stoically, Spartan simplicity, living by only the necessities of life, and Spartan fare, a frugal diet, a subsistence on the barest essentials to survive.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.


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