Democracy is a wonderful thing, they tell us-
The Enlightened Athenians who were artists and philosophers were infinitely preferable to The Wicked Spartans who killed weak babies and enslaved people.
The Liberty Loving Americans had God on their side when they defeated Bad King George and his Awful Tax Mongering English Mercenaries.
I never bought any of this. Democracy is logical. The people speak, majority rules, and most are happy. Generally, it can stave off major intolerance and oppression. It can become ineffecient, but generally all goes well for awhile. It's the rule of the people, the majority, over the small minority.
I used to lie awake at night and wonder why, if all this was the Gospel Truth, I still could not shake my firm conviction that England and Sparta were the good guys in all this, and America and Athens my sworn enemies. After all,wasn't Athens the cradle of democracy? Isn't America
"the best nation on this earth, ya'll"?
I don't buy it. Not at all
If you look at history, you will find that England wasn't perfect. But they were pretty damned near it. The Tax that was payed on the tea was miniscule. "Ah, well, it's the thought that counts. No Taxation without Representation!"
Er, hold on a minute. As I recall, there were several appointed Parliamentarians serving American interests. Besides, this gold wasn't going to pave King George's toilets. This went to help pay for a war that was fought primarily for said colonial's benefits. And God damn it all, they weren't tyrants.
Quiz Question: Which Leader of his Country Named George Had Over 200 Slaves?
Do you really need me to answer this one?
Now, on to Sparta. Sparta is a tiny tiny state with very few citizens. They are descended primarily Doric people, which sets them apart from the majority of Greeks at the time. Surrounded by enemies, they are able to subdue most of the area around Lakedaemon. Yes, they had helots. No, in and of itself, it's not forgivable. Slavery is plainly wrong. And now I become slightly apologetic...well, they lived in barbarous times, and most societies up until the 19th century had slaves *whine whine*. The fact remains, thought, that just because they had slaves doesn't mean they laid back and relaxed. No, every man underwent a regime of training and campaigning that would make a Navy Seal faint, and the women weren't spared physical exersize either. They did this not for pay, but out of a sense of survival. They thus became the strongest state in Greece. It was a hard, cruel state. But then again, it was a hard, cruel world.
The King with Half the East at heels is marched from lands of morning
His fighters drink the rivers up, their shafts benight the air
And he that stands will die for naught, and home there's no returning
The Spartans on the sea-wet rock sat down and combed their hair
O xein angellien Lakedaimonoios...
(goes off to remember Sparta and Britain)