What is life without death? Pride without humility? Honor without cowardice? Worthless—all of it. I've found myself asking these questions all too often, a weakness that I surely should not have. I should trust in myself and in my country, these… doubts… should not grace my mind. I've found myself wondering why it is I fight. Family? No, family is a product of the state meant only to enhance its military power. I do not know my wife, and I've met my son but a handful of times. Honor, then? Honor and pride are what we strive for, but they're not so great or important when you're kneeling amongst the bloodied corpses of your countrymen, when you can hear the screams of the dying echoing in your head. Is it then for fear? Fear has often been the greatest motivator. Fear, the reason a man presses forward in the darkest of circumstances, the one thing that keeps him going despite hopeless odds. Fear… no….Spartans do not feel fear— that weakness is for women and Athenians.
Why then do I fight? The only answer I can come up with is duty. I was, quite literally, born for this army. I've been trained since my birth to kill with the least amount of effort. I made my first real kill when I was eighteen and sent out to hunt the Helots that plague out country, and have killed hundreds since then. My sword is my most valuable possession, and my shield my greatest ally. I do as I'm told; I kill whoever falls within those orders and whoever might get in the way of them. My duty is my life, but is it my motivation? I'll leave that up to you to decide.
My name is Artaxes, and I was born in Lacedaemon (known as Sparta to some) to Dymas and Rhea in the year 456 B.C.E. My life has been a relatively simple one, and varies little from any other Spartiate of this lifetime. My first seven years were spent at home with my mother and the Helots that work for us. I learned the basics—how to fish, grow good food and sail. My father married my mother when he was twenty-two, so he lived in the barracks with his brothers during my childhood. By the time he was able to live at home I was eight and had already gone away for my schooling. I saw him a few times when he came to visit my mother, but it was always during the night and he was never there long.
When I turned seven I was taken with the other boys to begin my training. The training we received was hard and painful, but was something to be proud of. We were not allowed shoes, for they would make our feet weak and soft. Our food was scarce, and from it we learned to survive with nothing. We learned how to take what was needed, without being caught disgracing ourselves by thieving.
We were trained to withstand pain. Our captains would use a number of tools to get this point across—things like leather straps and wooden sticks. We learned to survive in the harsh winter snows with naught but our hands and our minds. We learned the easiest way to kill our pray, and how to kill many at once. We were trained with our swords and spears, and in hand to hand combat. From the age of seven I existed merely to be used as a weapon for my country; A lethal weapon, unmatched by any other nation's soldiers.
My life was a blur. I honestly don't remember a lot of details from my first decade except pain and pride. I do remember when I reached twelve winters old. All Spartan boys are required to take an older, unmarried male to be our mentor. The school teaches us to be soldiers- our mentors teach us to be men.
The man whom I spent several years with was named Demetrois. He was twenty two winters old when I approached him, and exactly what I strived to be. He was strong and fearless, unhesitant when it came to the fighting arts. He was one of the best warriors I had ever seen, and I felt honored when he accepted me.
Demetrois was with me, or rather I was with him, during all my free time. He showed me more techniques with my sword, and how to use my shield as another weapon. He educated me in the customs and culture of our great country, and the requirements there would be of me as I got older. He told me of how I would be expected to take a wife and produce heirs for the state, and he taught me of pleasure. We were nearly inseparable for the next two years- as was expected. Even when he no longer was my mentor he was still a very good friend, and remained so throughout my life.
Life continued in the same manner until I reached my eighteenth winter, and underwent the ritual Krypteia. My brothers and I were sent out into the countryside with naught but the clothing we wore and a small knife, and were told to kill as many Helots as possible- without being caught, of course. The blood of sixty-seven men and women met my blade during this time. I passed my test, and officially finished my public schooling. Had I not successfully passed this test I would have been demoted from noble Spartiate to a Perioeci, and had no real power in the state.
From there I joined the army as a military cadet, where I learned the arts of war and strategy in much more detail. I had already mastered my weaknesses, including fear and pain- now I was free to become great. When I turned twenty I joined the state militia, where I will serve until I see sixty winters, or take my last breath- whichever comes first. In joining the militia I was accepted into a Syssitia with fifteen other men. Being a part of a Syssitia was an honor, and the men I shared barracks with became my brothers. We all contributed financially, giving food and money to be allowed to stay, but the reward was worth much more than the cost.
When I was twenty five the Peloponnesian war broke out once again. Our king, Archidamus, sent the army to invade Attica, and in doing so shattered the fragile peace that had existed during my life time. Battles were fought, but I was still too young to see the blood myself. The next year the Gods expressed their favor of us when they sent sickness and plague to Athens, killing thousands for us.
During my twenty sixth year I took my own prodigy, and boy named Marios. He was good lad, strong and quick to learn. And, for the first time, I felt honest pride for someone besides myself. I was honored to help shape this child into the man he became.
428 BCE was the year my father perished, fighting valiantly during our third invasion of Attica. I, once again, felt pride- pride in being my father's son. I still hadn't known him, had only spoken to him a few times, but he was my father, and I owed him my obedience.
I took a wife, as was required, once I reached my thirty-ith year. I saw her one night when I was hunting. She was beautiful, younger than me, and showed no signs of belonging to anyone else, so I took her myself. Her name, I later learned, was Myrrine. I picked her up and carried her back to the Barracks. She did struggle at first, but I was easily able to subdue her. She was stripped and dressed in a man's cloths, her head was shaved, as was tradition, and she spent the night with me and my brothers. Soon after we moved into our own home.
Myrrine had just begun to swell with our child when I was called away to my duty. I ended up in Sicily, battling against the Delian league where I stayed for many months. I arrived home days before she gave birth... and I wished then that I was still amongst the fighting. My son, whom Myrrine planned to name Kelos, was a failure. He was weak and sickly, doomed from the start. I took him and left him on the slopes of Mount Taygetos, for the Gods to do as they willed.
It wasn't long before I was called back away for battle. The next place I was sent was Anactonon. The weather had grown cold and the battles were fierce, but in the end we prevailed and our army occupied Methone. Again I arrived home to bad news. My mentor and friend, Demetrois, was amongst the captured on the island of Sphacteria, along with over a hundred other soldiers. I wasn't sure what to think about it; to allow himself to be captured rather fight fiercely and die honorably, with went against everything he had taught me.
I learned the details soon after. Demetrois and his brothers had already been on the island, and sixty of our ships were in the harbor at Pylos. The strategy was ruined when the Athenian's sent fifty of their own ships to engage ours. They were somehow able to defeat our navy and the warriors on Sphacteria found themselves surrounded in an instant. Agis ІІ, who had succeeded his father and become our king in 427, sent representatives to negotiate the release of our men.
The Athenians showed their untrustworthiness in the events that followed. They demanded that Sparta turn over our entire navy, and in return they would send food to our warriors, then they would escort our ambassadors to Athens and let our ships and men come home. The Athenians claimed we violated the treaty and refused to free our men.
Eventually the standstill ended up in full battle. Our few men were able to hold off against the 1600 Athenians for two days before they finally fell. We were… shocked… but more determined than ever to defeat those Athenian swine.
In 424 BCE the Athenians won the battle at Oeniadae and captured Nisaea. The same year they renewed the Peace of Callias with Persia, outnumbering us even more. The next year was a peaceful one. I was able to return to my home and regain my strength. I was like a new man—fresh and energized when I was sent to Amphipolis a year later.
Amphipolis was the first battle I was seriously wounded. I had received my fair share of cuts and scars before, but it was during this battle that I took an arrow straight through my shoulder. The pain wasn't a problem, it didn't even faze me. The problem was that when the arrow tore through my flesh my arm stopped working right. I couldn't curl my fingers, and my arm refused to hold up the comfortable weight of my sword. I was able to improvise by switching my shield to my right arm and my sword to my left. My arm had enough strength left to clutch at the holds and raise and lower it in accordance to my needs, but it wasn't as efficient.
I survived the battle with naught but a new scar to add to my collection. The residual stiffness faded quickly with exercise and I was back to prime within days. It was only a month later that I was made Dathapatish, and was put in charge of ten men. I was very proud of my accomplishment, and vowed to keep my men in top condition.
That same year brought an end to the Archidamian War, or the first phase of the second Peloponnesian war. We were close to losing, to be honest. The Delian league had triumphed time and time again, with few victories for us. Instead, we signed a thirty year peace agreement with them, and soon after a defensive alliance. None of us were happy with it, but we had to follow the orders of our King. We did not celebrate when we went back to our country, for we had won no victory.
When I arrived home later that year it was to a very pregnant wife. My son was born shortly after, arriving in December that year. He was perfect— strong and healthy, and I knew he would make a great warrior one day. Myrrine named him Nikandros, meaning victory, because she said she knew we would win the war, no matter what the odds looked like.
Though we were supposed to be at peace, several battles took place over the next six years. First was the battle of Mantinea, where we defeated Athens and the Argives. Then, in 418, Argos, formally an alley of Athens, switched their allegiance to us. It was another victory for Sparta, though not a normal one. A year later I was again moved through the ranks, and named Hekatontarchès, and put in command of one hundred men.
We gained another alley in Alcibiades after he was accused of destroying religious statues and called to stand trial. He fled Athens and took shelter in Sparta, where he became a strategic advisor for us against his birth country. The same year Athens launched its expedition against Syracuse.
Nikandros left for school in 414. I was pleased to have been able to know him as well as I did and, though we still weren't extremely close, I knew he would do well in life. A year later the so called 'truce' was formally broken and Sparta built a fortress in Deceleia, Attica, which was just to the north of Athens and allowed us to raid them at moment's notice.
We destroyed the Athenian force that occupied Sicily in 413. Two years later we began to distrust Alcibiades, who then fled to Persia. That same year our navy gained the support of Persia, our Samian alley had a victory over Athens, we took part in the Battle of Syme, the Revolt of Rhodes, the revolt of Abydus and Lampsacus, and the Revolt of Thasos. 411 was also the year that hosted the assembly at Colonus to outline a new constitution, and the year the Council of Four Hundred was in office, though they were overthrown in September of the same year. When the Council of Four Hundred was overthrown, a new political party was established, leaving the government in the hands of the Five Thousand.
In 410 Athens was able to restore their democracy, and decreed a list of states laws that they published. More battles took place and the war picked up. Life was hard—we were going from one battle to the next with little or no rest. We were losing men everyday and the war seemed never-ending. Battle after battle took place—Hermocrates, Thasos, Notion, Chios, Aegospotami and finally the Blockade of Athens.
It was at the end of the long blockade, that of which lasted nearly two years, when Sparta finally emerged victorious over Athens and the Peloponnesian war officially came to an end. Unofficially, however, things were still tense. Phyle was seized by Thrasybulus, and an alliance was formed between Catane and Leontini in 404. Theramenes held a council in April of 404 to discuss the terms of the Athenians' surrender. The terms agreed upon were that Athens would give up its empire and join the Peloponnesian league. They also had to submit to the command of thirty oligarchs, including Critias and Theramenes.
Victory was sweet, as was knowing that even in the face of defeat we stood strong and we came out the winners. I'm not really sure what to do with myself now. I spent my entire childhood training for this war, and my adult years fighting it. I'm fifty-two winters old now… And in eight more years I will no longer be a part of the military. I may choose to enter politics then, or devote my time living on my small farm. I suppose I'll decide when the time comes… it is still possible for the war to break out again between now and then, though I doubt it will happen.
And this brings me back to my key point—what was my motivation? What kept me fighting despite all the heartache and bloodshed? I still don't have an answer, but rather more questions. Where do I go from here? What good am I now that my sole purpose is complete? Can I live in a time of peace when all's I've ever know is blood and war? I guess we'll find out.
So? Like I said, I wrote this for my world civilizations class, according to the (fricking hours) of research, it's pretty accurate. Did it sound ok? I haven't gotten a grade back yet. *Bites fingernails*