Get help from the best in academic writing.

Influences of Greek Culture: History of the Spartans

The Spartans In the summer of 480 B.C a battle took place that would forever change the history of the Greeks and that would eventually influence the way in which the Western world looked at war. The Spartans took their stand against the massive army of Persians in a three day battle which resulted in the Persians taking the win but may have very well led to the Greeks winning the Greco-Persian War. A culmination of strong tactical skill and bravery contributed to the Spartans making a stand much longer and stronger than anybody could have ever predicted. The Persian king Xerxes led his massive army through the narrow mountain pass known as Thermopylae expecting no considerable fight on the part of the Spartans. The Persians bid to conquer Greece was significantly halted because of the Spartan resistance, which was led by Leonidas,followed by a small army of Spartans, amounting to no more than 300. But no matter the size of Spartas fleet, Sparta if not the strongest, was one of the strongest military powers in ancient Greece. And despite them being vastly outnumbered by the Persians at Thermopylae, they did indeed prove their military strength and sophistication which resulted in their near defeat of the Persian army.
Greek culture was and still is up to today a heavy influence on the modern cultures of the Western world. It is because of this heavy influence of Greek culture in the western world, the knowledge of their history proves crucial to many aspects of our understanding of our own cultures. This heavy influence on the development of the western world could very easily be the reason that the Battle of Thermopylae and other battles surrounding it, have become of such importance and high level of study. The valiant stand of the Spartans at Thermopylae lead to the Greeks defeat of the Persians in the Greco-Persian war and enabled the further development of a culture from which the western world gains many of its principles and ideas. If the Spartans had not delayed the Persians at Thermopylae there may have been a very different ending to the Greco-Persian war. This being an important observation because the Greco-Persian war played such a crucial role in the history of Greece, a defeat could have resulted in a very different future for the western civilization.
The culture of Greece was one that strived for perfection in every sense of the word, but there was a dark side to the culture that so many have grown to praise. This dark side can be seen in the Spartans treatment of the Helots, who were in essence a Greek culture in their own, the Messenia’s, but early on became enslaved by the power Spartans who were in desperate need to acquire more land to deal with the burden of overpopulation. The Spartans held true and easily demonstrated as what is seen as Greece’s inability to incorporate. The poor treatment of the Helots lead them to begin a 30 year revolt, in which the Spartans took twenty years to take control of the situation. Fear of more events like this, is what turned Sparta into the war state that it became. The attempt to suppress the Helots, by the Spartans, in many ways assisted the Spartans in their attempt to defeat the Persians. No longer willing to undergo a similar revolt, the Spartans devoted a considerable amount of time and energy making certain to prevent all such events. It was because of these efforts that major components of Spartan culture, as we know it today, were all enforced. This can be easily seen in the devotion to physical perfection and warring techniques. And equally as important as their attempt to suppress the Helots was the contribution of the Helots in constructing their armor and warring tools. So despite the overwhelmingly poor treatment of the Helots, they played a crucial role in preparing the Spartans for the challenges to come and in the heat of battle. Even though they may have played an indirect role the affect that had on both the culture and the Battle of Thermopylae itself was indeed direct.
The Greeks had a large influence on the development of western world in many respects. Whether it is an influence on science or art, to anyone who has studied Greece in the days of its glory the influences be easily pinpointed. These influences continue into the art of war. As previously stated, war was a constant in Greece so much so that it became imbedded in its very culture. Consequently the way in which war was conducted in ancient Greece has become a portrait of the way in which it should be conducted, and set a standard around the Western world for years to come. Despite war being one of the most immoral, barbaric, and most appalling of all human creations, the Greeks did the impossible, by successfully portraying war as something of beauty, patriotism, freedom and self-sacrifice. Therein lays a reason the significance of the Battle at Thermopylae. That one battle not only captured the spirit of the Greeks, more specifically the Spartans, in three days but became a turning point of the art of war. But the Battle of Thermopylae more importantly defended the very future of the modern world.
It was Spartan culture, which in many ways, influenced the Spartans ability to stand against the Persians as long as they did. To overlook the role of Spartan culture in relation to their stand at Thermopylae would be to overlook one of the most influential aspects of the battle. Spartan culture was one of great complexity having many intricate characteristics, which adapted to the situations that they held witness to. Spartans were people of extreme patriotic pride and military prowess, who sought perfection in every form. But equal to their patriotism was their oppressive tactics towards their captives. Spartans weren’t people who believed in the concept of freedom. The Spartans for several centuries, while in Laconia and Messenia, exercised a ruthless enslavement of other native Greeks, whose land they conquered. Sparta was a military aristocracy, who wasn’t a military state for the sake of being a military state. In many respects Sparta’s army, parallel to not other, was created and maintained for the sole purpose of suppressing the Helots. In theory it was because of Sparta’s ‘inability to incorporate’ that lead to their standing army.
Sparta’s military achievements are, no doubt, the most impressive of all their possible accomplishments. By the middle of the sixth century Sparta was already considered the strongest military force in Greece. Despite the brute strength the of the Spartan army, the Spartan were still worried that a revolt from their underclass (the Helots)would cripple their advancement as a society.
“The Helot underclass were always threatening to rise up in significant numbers against their masters. So, at the beginning of each new civil year Sparta’s chief elected officials, the board of five ephors (overseers, supervisors), formally declared war on them. If any Helots did choose to rebel, they might then be killed with impunity….”
The awareness of a possible revolt kept the Spartans military forces extremely strong. This tension between the Spartans and Helots, strongly prepared the military forces for both the expected and unexpected, a beneficial trait which played to their advantage at the Battle of Thermopylae. Another trait that played to their advantage was the educational system of Sparta. The agoge was instated into Spartan culture to both develop the physical and mental maturity of all Spartan boys and was a requirement for all Spartan males.

Anthropology of Food: Essay on Medicinal Cannibalism

Cannibalism has been a topic of morbid fascination, condemnation, and strong subject of academic and moral argument. Medicinal cannibalism and corpse medicine became a pervasive occurrence in early modern Europe and America. Egyptian mummies pulverized into powder, human flesh of those recently executed and tragically died, fat, blood, skull and moss of the dead man’s skull were in high demand by physicians and their patients. Paracelsian chemists and physicians (a notorious medical movement in the late 16th and 17th century based upon theories and therapies of Paracelsus) made very careful removal and use of the entire human corpse. Thomas Willis, Robert Boyle, Charles II of England and a host of affluent gentry and aristocrats actively participated in this practice, along with the lucrative underground world of executioners, merchants, and grave robbers. This essay delves into the facts of medicinal cannibalism, purposed body parts, and healing practices.
Introduction In order to understand Medicinal Cannibalism, it is important we first understand what cannibalism is; Cannibalism is the intake or consumption of one’s own species. Medical Cannibalism or the proper term iatric cannibalism is the ritualistic eating of human flesh for purpose of healing the human body. The consumption of mummies and human tissue became a infamous pharmaceutical drug used widely all over the Europe, and were still sold at highly regarded German pharmacies as recent as 1908, and continued to be practiced in the Pacific Ocean islands as late as the second half of the 20th century.
Medical Cannibalism was commonplace and hit the peak of popularity during the 16th and 17th centuries. Many European royals, scientists, and clergy commonly ingested medical potions containing human blood, fat, bodily secretions, and bones believed to cure everything from cuts and bruises to seizures.
Method So Jesus said to them. “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you…” -John 6:53
In order to gain an understanding about the history of medical cannibalism, we need to explore the Christian followers and their gruesome healing practices. In the Christian faith, the correlation between the deceased and the godly has been a elemental part of ceremony and worship.
Very early on, flocks of faithful worshippers prayed over the dead martyred saints believing the saint’s physical remains provided a spiritual connection between man and God. Their decaying bodies and their bodily composition (such as blood, flesh, organs, bones, and secretions) believed to have holy powers to provide miracles of healing and the escape of spiritual and mortal death. These theft and vandalism of these bodies grew so widespread eventually, requiring relocation of the bodies to secure resting places.
Stories of these healing miracles continued to be reported by those who prayed or touched these saints’ corpses: Saint Catherine of Siena’s mummified head displayed at the Church of San Domenico in Siena, Italy and is believed to have healing powers. Catherine of Siena was believed to have had performed a healing ritual for a nun dying from breast cancer described as “twice forced herself to overcome nausea by thrusting her mouth into the putrefying breast… and drank her pus.” (Sugg, 2012) In central Italy, the faithful would pour olive oil over the martyred Saint Felix’s through holes in the tomb and collect the oil that had run over his decaying body to anoint the sick. (Sugg, 2012)
By the Middle Ages, Christian Europe was no longer satisfied consumption of dead saints, but had grown to also hunger for human bodies.
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement byt the atonement by the life. -Leviticus 17:11
Human blood believed to contain the essence of spirit and life and through consumption; the blood’s life essence is transferred. Regarded as the greatest scientist of his time, Saint Albertus Magus (1206-1280), prescribed ‘a most precious water’ containing the distilled blood from a healthy man. He declared “any disease of the body, if it be anointed therewith, is made whole and all inward diseases by the drinking thereof. A small quantity thereof received, restoreth them that have lost all strength: it cureth the palsy effectuously, and preserveth the body from all sickness.” (Sugg, 2012)
In 1483, King Louis XI ailing and struggling to live, drank the blood of small children: “Every day he grew worse, and the medicines profited him nothing, though of a strange character; for he vehemently hoped to recover by the human blood which he took and swallowed from certain children.” (Himmelman, 1997) In 1492, Pope Innocent VIII near death after a violent stroke drank blood drained by his personal physician of three young boys causing their death as well as the unsuccessful healing of the pope resulting in death.
The scientific approach to medical practice during the Renaissance triumphed over the faith-based healing of the past creating great advancements in chemistry. biology, and medicine. Oddly enough, medicinal cannibalism reached the peak of popularity and the art of alchemy.
“Decay is the beginning of all birth-and of all health” -Paracelsus
Alchemic philosophy of corpse medicine was uncomplicated: through decomposition, old matter transformed into raw material once again. Refinement of human organic matter is the base of the ‘essence of life’.
Theophorastus Bombastus von Honenheim (1491-1541)
Early literature is full of revelations pertaining to the potent medicinal power in the beneficial healing of an individual’s ailments. The text and medical studies of medicinal cannibalism and corpse pharmacology, reveals the commonplace practice of ingesting human bodily matter and reveals a culture preoccupied.
According to early literature (980-1037), the ingestion of mummies was the preparation that could cure epilepsy, nausea, colds, and the antidote of poison. By the late sixteenth century, the ingestion of mummies became a renowned pharmaceutical drug used widely all over the Europe, and were still sold at reputable German pharmacies as recent as 1908.[i] Further, ingestion of human bodies was practiced in many of the islands in the Pacific Ocean until the second half of the twentieth century. The question necessarily occurs: what’s good about it? Ingestion of human bodies is not necessarily an appealing notion even to the people in the sixteenth century. When one is prescribed a half a pound of mummy dust by a doctor as a remedy for a cold, it sounds like the risk isn’t worth taking, for one could ask many questions such as, ‘For how long do I need to take it?’ or more obviously, ‘Does that work?’ and so on. Dwelling deeper, can one consume another being of the same species? What would its moral implication be? Apparently, these are types of questions that were asked and have been asked by those who promoted medicinal ingestion of flesh as well as the deliberate act of cannibalism. In this paper, I will examine the types of cannibalisms as well as ways to prepare human flesh, discuss the theoretical and practical implications of cannibalism and briefly touch upon the alleged relationship between cannibalism and witchcraft in early modern Europe.
If you haven’t read much about ancient Egyptian mummies, you may be shocked to learn that in centuries past, they were ground up into a fine powder dispensed by pharmacists to be topically applied or orally ingested as a treatment for ailments as diverse as upset stomach, gout, and epilepsy. Mumia (or mummia) was 1st prepared in the 12th c., was in common use by the 15th c., and reached great popularity by the 17th c. “Mummy is become merchandise, Mizraim cures wounds, and Pharaoh is sold for balsams,” wrote Sir Thomas Browne in 1841. Mummy powder was in such demand that the supply of ancient Egyptians slowed and contemporary corpses were substituted. Mumia was still available as recently as the early 20th c. Fast forward to 2012, when scientists are again looking to mummy as a cure. They fear that our (over)use of antibiotics has ravaged our intestinal flora, which in turn has changed our metabolism, damaging our immune system and contributing to obesity. Cecil Lewis of the University of Oklahoma is comparing the bacteria in the poop of ancient mummies – who lived before the age of antibiotics – to our own gut bacteria so they can figure out what has changed. “My first hypothesis would be that chlorinated water and antibiotics fundamentally changed human microbiomes,” says Dr. Lewis, who adds, “It’s too early to tell if it’s a good idea to repopulate our guts with bacteria. But it’s certainly an important idea that requires investigation.” And presumably a more sophisticated method than ingesting mumia… 1st image) An apothecary vessel inscribed “MUMIÆ” once contained powdered mummy and is now a specimen in the pharmacy collection of the Museums für Hamburgische Geschichte, 2nd image) Alisa Eagleston and Elizabeth Cornu, conservators from the San Francisco Fine Arts Museum, cover the 2,500-year-old mummy of an Egyptian man named “Irethorrou” after being scanned at the Stanford Medical Center.
These are some of the many posts I have written about ancient Egypt, if you care to read on: Ancient Egyptian perfume, Rediscovery of ancient Egypt, Raiding ancient Egypt, Ancient Egyptian finds, The nurse and the sphinx, Mummy toes, Ramesses’ repatriation, Mummies guarded, The mummies in question, and Egyptian obelisks elsewhere.
Noble’s new book,Medicinal Cannibalism in Early Modern English Literature and Culture, and another by Richard Sugg of England’s University of Durham,Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: The History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians, reveal that for several hundred years, peaking in the 16th and 17th centuries, many Europeans, including royalty, priests and scientists, routinely ingested remedies containing human bones, blood and fat as medicine for everything from headaches to epilepsy. There were few vocal opponents of the practice, even though cannibalism in the newly explored Americas was reviled as a mark of savagery. Mummies were stolen from Egyptian tombs, and skulls were taken from Irish burial sites. Gravediggers robbed and sold body parts.

Bibliography Dolan, M. (2012). The Gruesome History of Earing Corpses as Medicine History . Retrieved from
Gordon-Grube, K. (1993). Evidence of Medicinal Callnibalism in Puritan New England: ‘Mummy’ and Related Remidies. Early American Literature , 28, p. 185.
Himmelman, P. (1997). The Medicinal Body: An Analysis of Medicinal Cannibalism in Europe, 1300-1700. Dialectical Anthropology , 22, p. 183.
Noble, L. (2011). Medicinal Cannibalism in Early Modern English Literature and Culture. New York: Palgrave Macmillian.
Peters, H. (1899). Pictorial History of Ancient Pharmacy: With Sketches of Early Medical Practice. Chicago: G.T. Engelhart