Ω ξειν’, αγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ότι τηιδε
κείμεθα, τοίς κείνων ρήμασι πειθόμενοι.
[Ō xein', angellein Lakedaimoniois hoti tēide
keimetha tois keinōn rhēmasi peithomenoi.
Go, stranger, and to
That here, obeying her behest, we fell.]
Ah, how shall I sing of the Spartans?
They murdered every baby who was physically imperfect in any way. They separated the sexes from the time they were 7 years old.
They made of battle a dance in which blood, too, spun and capered. They killed with a grace of which the gods they worshiped would have been incapable, a poetry in thew and sinew to match any offered by Michelangelo in stone.
No clumsy thunderbolts for them, no; they used steel and wood as extensions of arm and hand, carrying the thrust of leg and hip with the same coiling symmetry as their muscled limbs.
They did not mourn their dead; honor, worship, idolize, lionize, yes- but mourn, never.
How could they mourn those they aspired to follow?
They knew that the reward for achievement was a greater demand, and then a greater, trial piled on agony until mortal flesh could no longer bear it. The grace with which they fell under that burden is what makes them famous.
Make no mistake when those who cry “war” and “freedom” point to the Spartans. The Spartans were war; they breathed and bred and bled it; they structured their society around its conveyance and continuation.
All Spartans served an armed force, though not all were warriors. All suffered and sacrificed and endured.
Do not compare us to them.