No Dessert

Despite the Spartan’s axiomatic toughness, they could be astonishingly gentle when dealing with their fellow Spartiates.  In court cases, the punishments doled out were, at times, the sort of thing one might expect a parent to assign to a child.  One rich man was condemned to go without dessert with his dinner.  Others were sentenced to bring back a reed or a handful of laurel leaves.  Even Agesilaus, one of Sparta’s ablest kings and commanders, asked that his friend, even if guilty, be found not guilty, for his sake.

The Spartans’ Apology

The story of the Persian messengers who demanded earth and water from the Spartans is well known.  To the Persians, this request for earth and water was a sign of submission and obedience, a request the Spartans strongly refused.  They were thrown into a well by the Spartans, and told that they would find both of each down there.  However, the sequel to the story is lesser known.

The Spartans later regretted this incident so greatly, for it was undeniably an immoral act, that they sent two citizens to Persia, who volunteered to be killed by them in order to erase the Spartans’ guilt from their own crime.

The True Test of Friendship

Namertes the Spartan was sent as an ambassador to another nation, and when one of the people of that country congratulated him for having so many friends, he asked him whether he had any sure means of testing the strength of his friendships.  Namertes replied, “Through misfortune.”

Knowledge of Justice

Once, while contesting with each other for the hegemony of Greece, the Spartans and Athenians had a dispute.  Unable to resolve it on their own, it was suggested by the Athenians that Megara serve as a neutral arbiter.  Agesipolis, son of Pausanias, said to the Athenians that it would be a shame if Megara knew more of justice than Sparta and Athens, who led the Greek world.