Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Friday, July 23, 2004

This is coolbert: We have all heard about how the Spartans of ancient Greece used to expose new-borns to see if they were fit for survival and training as a Spartan. Exposing a new-born to the elements for one day was a way of testing the babe to see if it was fit. If the baby survived one day exposed to the elements, the baby was fit to be a Spartan, if it did not survive, well, it was no good to be a Spartan. This is somewhat exaggerated. New borns would be examined for any physical impairment. If an impairment was found, then the baby would be left to the elements to die. But only if upon examination an impairment was found.

When the young Spartan lad attained the age of eight, military style training would commence. This would continue until the age of twelve, where upon the youth would then be tested. The twelve year old youth would be required to run a gauntlet, the goal being to reach an altar. If the gauntlet was run and altar was reached, the youth was said to be fit to be a Spartan. Otherwise, not fit to be a Spartan.

Now, in addition, some of these twelve year olds would be observed to possess physical and mental abilities beyond those of their peers. Natural soldiers and military men. Leaders. These youths possessed innate abilities the Spartan elders were looking for. And the elders would choose some of these youths to become krypteria, secret killers.  Nomadic, wild killers. Living free, roaming about solo, hiding in the mountains, living off the land. Killers that would descend from the mountains to kill, at their discretion, helots. The helots were the slaves of the Spartans would did the menial dirty work of keeping the society going for their Spartan overlords. To keep the helots in line, to intimidate them, and to strike the fear of god into the helots, the Spartans maintained this killer elite that operated as "lone wolves". "Lone wolves" that would probably keep a secret watch on the helots, watching from afar for laziness or shirking, and then striking at will, thusly inspiring great fear. An intimidating factor designed to keep the helots on their toes. You could never know when a "lone wolf" was watching.

"Krypteria or Crypteia was a kind of secret police force organised by the ruling classes of Sparta and targeted at the enslaved Helot population that economically supported it.
Young Spartan men who had completed their training at the agoge with such success that they were marked out as potential future leaders, would be given the opportunity to test their skills and prove themselves worthy of the Spartan military tradition through membership of the Crypteia.

Every autumn, the Spartan Ephors would declare ware on the Helot population so that any Spartan citizen could kill a Helot without fear of blood guilt. Armed only with dagger, the Crypteria were sent out into the countryside with the instructions to kill any Helot they encountered at night and to take any food they needed. This could be used to remove any Helots considered troublesome and provide the young men with a manhood test and experience of their first kill. Such brutal oppression of the Helots permitted the Spartans to control the agrarian population and devote themselves to military practice. It may also have contributed to the Spartans' reputation for stealth. "

It is not hard to imagine that such a system was in existance and that it did work to intimidate the helots. We have a modern version of this in the hidden cameras that bosses use at work to watch employees on the job, or in the special softwares that watch every keystroke of an employees computer. Employees are not killed, obviously, but intimidated by the "hidden hand and eye".



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