Sparta was located in the southern Peloponnesus. In this city-state soldiers marching and young boys and girls exercising were common sights. Spartan citizens led a simple life filled with physical activity.
Spartan leaders used military strength to control their city-state. Historians believe that Sparta may have had ten times as many slaves as citizens. Fear that the slaves would rebel led the Spartans to protect themselves with a military way of life.
Spartan children went through long physical-training programs. Boys had to leave their families at age 7 to attend training camps. Girls stayed at home but received training in gymnastics and running. Boys continued training until age 18 and served in the Spartan army until age 30.
The army camps taught Spartans to obey their leaders without question. Spartans believed that they must never give up a battle, even when wounded. The Spartans believed that there was no greater honor than to die defending their city-state.
The women of Sparta had fewer rights than men but more rights than women in other Greek city-states. Spartan women managed the household and often handled business matters. However, the main duty of women, according to Spartan leaders, was to raise strong children.
Only the senate or the ephors could suggest new laws in Sparta. The assembly of citizens voted for or against new laws, but their votes could be ignored by the ephors
and the senate. This meant that the ephors and the senators held most of the power in Sparta. Any small ruling group such as this is called an oligarchy.
Why did Spartans believe they needed a strong army?