Do Spartans Still Exist Today?


The Spartans were fierce warriors of extreme renown, and people all over the world have heard stories about their skills in battle. With such fame, it seems impossible that the Spartans just faded away into history, but that’s almost precisely what happened. It leaves many people wondering whether or not Spartans still exist today. 

Spartans still exist today, but they aren’t necessarily descended from the long-ago Spartan warriors. There is still a city called Sparta in Lakonia, but it’s not the ancient city of the past. Its construction began in 1834 under the direction of King Otto of Greece. 

That isn’t to say that there are no modern-day Spartan descendants. The Maniots of the Mani Peninsula claim to be the descendants of Spartan warriors, but DNA proof is lacking. This article will discuss the Maniots and other topics related to the famous Spartan empire. 

Can some people trace their heritage to the Spartans? See below

Can Some People Trace Their Heritage to the Spartans?

The Maniot people trace their heritage to the Spartans. These individuals live on the Laconic Peninsula of Mani in the Greek Peloponnese region. The Spartans fled to the dense mountains of Mani after their conflict with the Visigoths. Today, Maniots still proudly proclaim their Spartan heritage.

Unfortunately, there is little solid DNA evidence to substantiate these claims. [1] Because of this, many historians and scholars disagree on whether or not the Maniots’ claims are genuine. Some insist that the rituals and customs practiced by modern Maniots directly link them to their Spartan heritage. [2]

Others disagree, claiming that any people living in a culturally rich area would adopt the customs and practices of that area. 

Regardless, the people of Mani firmly believe in their Spartan heritage and will proclaim it to anyone who asks – loudly and proudly. And although they may not have the DNA to back it up, they do have a stronger claim to Spartan heritage than the people living in modern-day Sparta. 

Spartan helmet
Do any ruins of Sparta exist today? See below

Do Any Ruins of Sparta Exist Today?

Four primary sites of ancient Spartan ruins still exist today. They are all near modern-day Sparta, but not much remains of them. They include an early Roman theater, the ancient Agora, the temple of Athena Chalcioecus, and the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia. Other smaller ruins also exist.

Compared to the ruins of Athens and other famous sites of Greek antiquity, Sparta’s ruins aren’t that impressive. That’s especially true when people compare what’s left of Sparta to the legends told about Spartan warriors today. 

The stories about the famous warriors lead many people to believe that Sparta was this giant, sprawling cityscape that would take a tourist’s breath away. The reality, though, is much different. There is a reason that the phrase “a Spartan existence” is still famous today. 

Sparta’s prestige and esteem weren’t in things or architecture. They were in its power and military prowess. 

In his History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides talks about Sparta, saying, “Suppose that the city of Sparta were to become deserted and that only the temples and foundations of buildings remained: I think that future generations would, as time passed, find it very difficult to believe that the place had really been as powerful as it was represented to be.” [3]

He went on to say that the city was “not regularly planned and contains no temples or monuments of great magnificence,” describing it instead as “simply a collection of villages.” 

With descriptions like that, it’s no surprise that so few Spartan ruins remain to the present day. Still, there are a few, the most notable of which is the theater located on Acropolis Hill. It featured a U-shaped orchestra, an acting area, and a large performing area when it was whole. It was also the largest theater in the Peloponnese region.

Other sites of Spartan ruins include: 

  • The ancient Agora
  • The sanctuary of Artemis Orthia
  • The temple of Athena Chalcioecus
  • The Byzantine Church
  • The “round” building
  • The Archaic Stoa
  • A Mycenaean-era palace
  • King Leonidas’ tomb
Spartan King Leonidas
What artifacts have been found from Sparta? See below

What Artifacts Have Been Found from Sparta?

The following is a list of artifacts that have been found from ancient Sparta: 

  • Clay tablets with writing
  • Wall art and paintings
  • Decorative gems
  • Religions/devotional items
  • Egyptian scarabs (likely traded for, not created in Sparta)
  • Ivory idols
  • Pottery
  • Figurines
  • Bronze swords
  • Animal-shaped items
  • A rhyton (a drinking vessel carved to resemble an animal)
  • Formal seals
  • Practical kitchen items
  • Bronze mirrors

At first glance, that list seems long and extensive. However, it’s not a lot compared to other ancient archaeological finds. This, too, is likely because things weren’t as important to Spartans as they were to other cultures at the time. 

In fact, archaeologists found many of the above-listed items in a single archaeological dig site – a palace discovered sometime in 2015. The rhyton found there was beautifully preserved and carved and painted to resemble a bull’s head. 

However, according to an August 2015 article in Forbes, the artifacts weren’t the most essential thing in the Mycenaean-era palace. The palace is also home to some of the earliest examples of Greek writing. 

The writing survives on Greek tablets and was preserved perfectly in a fire some time in the palace’s history. The writing itself is nothing epic. It lists the names of people and places, records commercial transactions, and outlines a list of supplies given to certain religious groups. 

However, just the existence of these tablets was a phenomenal find and helped historians, archaeologists, and scholars learn more about the early Greek language. 

There are also plenty of bronze statues, figurines, weapons, and other items from Sparta. The early Spartans and Lakonians were experts at bronzeworking. The Met Museum has a large selection of Spartan bronze artifacts in its collection, including: 

  • Bronze mirrors “held” by the figure of a nude girl
  • Mixing bowls
  • Elaborately decorated water jugs
  • Statuettes and sculptures
  • Figurines
  • Tripods
  • Utensils
  • Drinking cups [4]

As mentioned above, bronze swords also survive from ancient Sparta.

Conclusion

There’s a modern-day Sparta built on the site of ancient Sparta. Spartan ruins are sparse, and Sparta’s descendants may live on the Mani Peninsula.

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source
[4] Source

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