Evaluate the Importance of Religion, Death and Burial in Ancient Sparta

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘Sparta’? Most people, I am sure, yelled Hollywood movie 300’s famous line - “THIS IS SPARTA!” in their heads. But do they really know what Sparta was actually like? Often the true Sparta is lost in a misconception or a mythical stereotype in that we don’t see a culture imbedded in religious rituals, with important life and death practices.   Instead we perceive it as a society that just war-hungry. I am here, therefore, to shed some light on the Sparta that not many people know about; far from the glamour of Hollywood impressions, Sparta was and is much more - it was a society that relied on its spiritual principles for the building and maintenance of its ideals.

Religion was equally respected in public as it was private, and throughout the history of Sparta, there are numerous demonstrations of the significance of religion. A prime example of this, highlighting the value of godly worship and refuting the myth that Sparta was only interested in war and was an unspiritual nation, was the Spartans’ delay to join the Battle of Marathon as the festival of Karneia had not yet ended.

A total of twelve gods and goddesses were served in daily life, Zeus the God of all creation holding the utmost importance. There were, however, a select few who held particular reverence amongst the Spartans, these included Apollo the God of music, poetry and dance, and Artemis (who was worshipped as Artemis Orthia), the goddess and protector of women, fertility and childbirth.

Sparta also had two kings who were highly revered due to their ancestral link to Heracles and were therefore, it was accepted that “a king by virtue of his divine descent should perform all the public sacrifices on the city’s behalf”. The kings, with assistance from the pithioi, also had the responsibility of seeking and interpreting oracles and presided over the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. This responsibility of the theirs held great...