Assess the role of religion and festivals in Spartan society essays
“Based on a study of both ancient and modern sources, assess the role of religion and festivals in Spartan society”
In Spartan society, religion and festivals played a pivotal part of everyday life for both men and women. The very system by which they lived, decreed in the Great Rhetra, was “Delphic-oracle-given”, delivered by the celebrated Lycurgus. The Spartans, famed for their military-based lifestyle, were in fact dependant on military divination to advise them whether or not to go into war – if the signs were not right then even an essential military engagement may be delayed or abandoned totally. Similarly, they sometimes missed or did not fully participate in certain battles if there was a religious festival on at the same time. Another significant element of Spartan life – unions between young Spartan boys still in training and adult Spartan warriors – has been attributed to the relationship between the mythological Apollo and the adolescent boy Hyacinthus. Religion and festivals were also noteworthy aspects when it came to the lives of women; they relied upon the gods for fertility, beauty and health. Thus, we can deduce that religion and festivals played a very important role in Spartan society, affecting their society politically, militarily and even shaping their values, attitudes and outlooks on life.
The ancient Spartans life was governed by the oracle brought from Delphi, by Lycurgus. This oracle, known as the “Great Rhetra” detailed the laws of Sparta, in a place where there were no written laws. Paul Cartledge, in his book, The Spartans?, states that, “myth, religion and politics coalesced to produce thefirst glimmerings of a political history … of the Spartan polis or state”. He is saying that religion and politics in ancient Sparta are so tightly linked that it is impossible to consider one aspect without addressing the other at the same time. In fact, the very founder of the Spartan way of life, Lycurgus, …