[extropy-chat] 300 and the Gates of Fire

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Sat Mar 10 21:50:51 UTC 2007

On 3/10/07, Damien Broderick wrote:
> So do you predict that
> if you heard a story of 300 whitebread US soldiers heroically and at
> the cost of their own lives defending a poverty-stricken largely
> Islamic African nation against a vile force of two million invading
> 'Stanians (or perhaps $cientologists),
> you would *not* be moved?
> Or, more realistically, defending Tutsis against Hutu genocide? Jews
> against Nazis?
> That is, it's all genes rather than memes/empathic
> affiliations/whatever? Granted, bravery per se in face of great odds
> might be interpreted as a generalization of "defend the family
> against the world", but perhaps by the times it's got sufficiently
> generalized ("I detest bullies!") some other almost independent
> dynamics are in play.

You also have to look at what the Spartans actually were.

The males were trained from children to be savage killing machines,
bonded to the other males that they lived, trained and fought together
with. (And had sex with).

The ideology of Sparta was oriented around the state. The individual
lived (and died) for the state. Their lives were designed to serve the
state from their beginning to the age of sixty.
Spartan society was a militaristic society ruled by an aristocracy,
based on slave labour. They needed slaves because the men were all in
the army full time. If the males were too weak to be in the army, they
were killed.

At the age of seven, every male Spartan was sent to military and
athletic school. These schools taught toughness, discipline, endurance
of pain (often severe pain), and survival skills. At twenty, after
thirteen years of training, the Spartan became a soldier. The Spartan
soldier spent his life with his fellow soldiers; he lived in barracks
and ate all his meals with his fellow soldiers. He also married, but
he didn't live with his wife. Only at the age of thirty, did the
Spartan become an "equal," and was allowed to live in his own house
with his own family—although he continued to serve in the military.

These Spartans were not very 'nice' people. They were the total
opposite of the Athenian society that led to our own civilization.

Their training made them fight and die for the state and for their
fellow soldiers who they were intensely bonded to. This bonding of
platoons of soldiers is still in use today as it is a well recognised
aid to the fighting capability of foot soldiers.

I doubt if the Spartans were fighting for their families and children.
The 300 were chosen because they already had produced children for the
state, but if they were under 30 they would still have been living in
barracks and rarely have seen their families. Remember the male
children left the family at age seven.  Our idea of 'family' was alien
to Spartan society.


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