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Further notes on Sparta

The women are shown to be quite proud & resourceful in the city. The Persian messenger is shocked to see a woman talk not only among men, but in political matters. She says, only Spartan women give birth to real men. The importance of manliness gives women an unusual importance in politics. The importance of heirs in an aristocracy adds to this. The fact that boys are brought up together for war may require the compensation that women be involved in politics.

But it is rather the going to war that gives women power. Someone has to maintain order in the city when the men are gone & only the women are there in sufficient numbers. The men trust them not only with their property & the children, but also to keep the city in its orders. This gives women an unusual influence over the very orders of the city & that is why in a story about the training of warriors the women do not show up almost at all.

The single weirdest parallel drawn in the movie is this: The Ephors are shown to drug & rape young women whom they call oracles, which is a very ugly, but telling scene about what divine sanction for human laws might look like. Then the king is shown in his bedchamber with his wife, talking over the problem he could not persuaded the Ephors to let him solve, then they have sex.

The ephors are apparently the rulers of Sparta, because they get to say whether the army moves or no. What they have in mind is, to use the religious festival connected with the harvest to prevent war. It turns out, they, like some of the senators, have been bribed & would rather enjoy private wealth than allow the city to survive even. This exaggeration, together with their ugliness, shows the Spartan opinion about the dignity of the private life, to say nothing of pacifism.

The connection between the laws & the gods, on which the obedience of the warriors depends, looks like unalloyed corruption. No one could fail to see it is who had any occasion to see it, so how could it endure? This sets up a confrontation between the worst in Sparta & the best in Sparta which we will consider in the sequel. For now, let us leave it at saying that Spartans look best away from their home.

Broadly, it seems obvious that divine sanction far more easily fits the laws than the generals, & the religious festivals especially: There is far less room for disagreement & no catastrophe to attend on errors of judgment. But this makes no room for decisive action.