How Tall Was the Average Spartan?


The ancient Spartan empire was known for its military strength and well-trained soldiers. It’s worth considering whether it was Spartan soldiers’ physique and build that made them formidable opponents. For instance, how tall was an average Spartan? 

Spartan soldiers are believed to have been between 5”7 – 5”10 feet (1.70 – 1.78 meters) tall. Historians have estimated this height based on the size of excavated battle gear and by analyzing the Spartan diet. Additionally, a Spartan weighed between 132 – 154 pounds (60-70 kilograms). 

This article explores all the  pertinent information about a Spartan’s physique and physical fitness. It will also explore how they retained their level of physical fitness. 

Were Spartans Taller Than Their Enemies?

There are no historical skeletal remains of Spartan soldiers. However, there are plenty of other facts for historians to study.

Taking all the available historical evidence into account, the Spartans were likely taller than their enemies. For one thing, the Spartan diet would have been very different compared to their foes. Access to meat from a young age means that Spartans were likely taller than their enemies. 

Helena Schrader argues that Sparta was filled with forests and pastures, which gave them access to game meat. [1] She adds that this is very different from their opponents’ diet, who would have more access to fish and seafood. She infers that access to game meat would have made the Spartans taller as an increase in meat-based diets has been found to make individuals taller. [2]

Historians have also analyzed Spartan battle gear to better understand Spartans’ heights compared to their enemies. The height of the Spartan shields and the length of the Spartan helmets indicate that the Spartans were up to 5’10” feet (1.78 meters) tall. 

Meanwhile, anthropological studies have estimated that the Ancient Greeks – arguably the Ancient Spartans’ most prominent enemies – were around 5”7 (1.70 meters) feet tall. [3] Further research has found that men of other ancient societies in the Mediterranean region were around 5”6 feet tall. 

Spartan King Leonidas
How were Spartans physically fit? See below

How Were Spartans Physically Fit?

Spartans were exceptionally physically fit, which made them excellent soldiers. 

There were several reasons why the Spartans were so fit. They started training at a young age, they lived a life of hardship that built on fitness, and they engaged in several training regimes to build on their strength and stamina. 

This section explores the factors which made Spartans so physically fit. 

Spartans Began Training at a Young Age

Spartans began their military training when they were seven years old. They were taken from their families and enrolled in the agoge, an educational system that focused on training in the art of war. Only Spartan boys were trained in the agoge; Spartan girls were trained in athletics and sports by their families and the extended community. 

As Spartans began training in military arts from such a young age, training became an integral part of their life. 

Lived a Life of Hardship 

Spartans, especially Spartan boys, knew few luxuries. They were not given garments or shoes and had to forage food for themselves. When traveling, they were not given light and had to make their way home in darkness. 

Their life of hardship helped to tone Spartans’ bodies and their minds, making them both physically and mentally fit. 

Continuous and Varied Training 

Spartans maintained their physical fitness through a regular and varied training regime. Spartan training included sports and drills that honed all parts of their bodies. Here’s what the Spartans engaged in: 

  • Javelin and discus training. This improved soldiers’ arm strength and also their accuracy. 
  • Gymnastics. Continuously more demanding gymnastics patterns improved the body’s flexibility and endurance. 
  • Wrestling. Wrestling builds on strength and assessing what an opponent will do in a fight. 
  • Swimming. Swimming training is conducted in the summer and the colder months, built on the body’s ability to tolerate extreme conditions. 

Spartan Women Were Also Physically Fit

Spartan women did not have as rigorous and structured a training system as Spartan men. However, Spartan society encouraged Spartan women to become strong and physically fit. 

In fact, Lycurgus, a Spartan lawmaker, placed systems to ensure that both men and women participated in trials of strength and races. [4]

Spartan women were encouraged to engage in gymnastics, wrestling, and horse racing. They also participated in chariot races. 

Spartan women joined battles to help men defend their territories at some points in history. Childbearing was also an essential part of their lives and highly valued in society. The Spartan society encouraged women to improve their physical fitness to bear more children. As children were born to healthy parents, they had genetics that ensured that they would grow strong and fit. 

From this analysis, one can see that all Spartan society members were extremely fit as physical health was society’s prime focus. 

Spartan helmet
How heavy was the average Spartan? See below

How Heavy Was the Average Spartan?

The average Spartan was not very heavy according to historical records and commentary. A Spartan soldier would have weighed between 60-70 kilograms (132 – 154 pounds). Spartan boys were raised on a simple to meager diet, which led to them having lean but fit bodies. 

Plutarch, a Greek-Roman biographer, wrote extensively about the Spartan way of life, including their diet. According to Plutarch, Spartan boys survived on a simple diet that sometimes verged on starvation. 

From time to time, they were forced to conduct raids due to a lack of food. If they were caught, they were publicly flogged, which was typically a punishment reserved for enslaved people. On the other hand, Spartan enemies thrived on a rich diet. This would have made their bodies less lean and fit than the Spartans. 

Plutarch argued that this diet ensured that Spartan soldiers could survive in even the most challenging conditions. In addition, Spartan rulers only allowed young boys meager food rations as they believed that slim bodies were more likely to grow taller. 

The system of rationing and moderation ensured that Spartans were both lean and tall. 

Conclusion 

This examination finds that the average Spartan was between 5”7-5”10 feet (1.70-1.78 meters) tall – taller and leaner than their enemies. 

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

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