Tyrtaeus: Spartan Poetry

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Tyrtaeus was a Spartan poet from around the middle of the seventh century BC. His identity remains unknown. In Ancient Greek stories, he was variously speculated to have been a poet sent by Athens to help the Spartans, a lame schoolmaster and composer, and a Spartan general. Some scholars even doubt his existence. Nonetheless, fragments and four of Tyrtaeus ' elegies remain. Despite this few number, Tyrtaeus is the main source of evidence for his period of Spartan history, during which Sparta was engaged in the Second Messenian War and transformed into a militaristic state. Tyrtaeus wrote poetry that encouraged Spartans to fight bravely and his elegies inspired the Spartans to regain their lost ideals and military efficiency. Soldiers advanced …show more content…
As an Athenian writing about the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, Thucydides was not a neutral observer. He suggests the Spartan victory was due to Athenian errors rather than a result of Spartan strategic skills. Although he was impressed by Sparta 's eunomia and their internal strength and self-sufficiency, Thucydides also accuses them of being outdated – slow, backward-looking and inflexible. Therefore, Spartans who behaved contrary to his expectations may have been misrepresented and underestimated, such as Brasidas whom Thucydides described as "un-Spartan". However, Brasidas was the Spartan general who defeated the army led by Thucydides in Amphipolis, so it was in his best interest to show that he was defeated by an extraordinary Spartan leader. Overall, Thucydides was very hostile to Sparta but this may stem from his lost against them and his Athenian background, the longstanding rival of …show more content…
Although Plutarch is often uncritically enthusiastic about Spartan institutions, his work is valuable because it is frequently based on earlier sources that are now lost. Lycurgus is credited with having obtained the original Spartan constitutions from the oracle of Apollo at Delphi in the form of the Great Rhetra. All institutions and its mechanisms are ascribed to Lycurgus, including the Spartan agoge, syssitia, dietary laws and burial customs. However, while Plutarch 's Spartan Lives provide much useful material on Spartan society, these literary works must be used with great care. Plutarch lived a thousand years after the earliest events he described. Most of the accounts have been influenced by the long established Spartan myth, shaped almost into fact by the time of Plutarch, and so are open to doubt. By the second century AD, Sparta had fallen from its greatness and looking back Plutarch idealises the past. Although they provide a wealth of information not detailed elsewhere, Plutarch 's concern with perpetuating the legacy of Sparta make those sources less reliable than

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