The Apophthegmata Lakonika and Greek Perceptions
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There exists within the corpus of extant Greek and Roman literature a work by Plutarch, the Apophthegmata Lakonika that has been looked upon dubiously by scholars. However, the scholarly neglect of the Sayings of the Spartans has created another unnecessary barrier to gaining a better understanding of the Spartans. Although heavily influenced by the Spartan mirage, the Apophthegmata Lakonika represents a valuable source of insight into the mindset and personality of the average Spartan. The intent of this study is to examine key selections of the Sayings and comparing them to historical events that either reflect, or contradict, the values expressed in the Sayings. This study will focus on five fundamental areas: patriotism, nerves, obedience, contempt for wealth, and the Spartan relationship with death. The intended approach is to examine several Sayings that discuss each value, and then compare that evidence with the historical record to confirm or deny their authenticity as Spartan traits. By dissecting the Sayings and examining them in this way, we can begin to dissect features of the Spartan mirage that have developed over the course of thousands of years of scholarship. We can begin to divide the fictitious and fallacious aspects of the Spartan mirage from authentic fact, and in doing so gain a new avenue with which to interact with Spartan culture. The implications of such a study are wide-reaching. By affirming the validity of the Apophthegmata Lakonika we can both open it to further examination as well as reinvigorate an otherwise neglected area of scholarly study. The name “Spartan” has always echoed with authority within the ancient tradition – and such an echo deserves its due within academic scholarship, rather than its status as near anathema for much of the latter half of the 20th century.