How Well Do You Know the Spartans?

By: John Miller
Image: Anton Violin/ Momentgettyimages

About This Quiz

In the over-the-top drama of the movie “300,” we see a legion of muscular warriors (doused in copious amounts of baby oil for effect) preparing for battle. And then their leader, King Leonidas, utters one of the more (in)famous movie quotes of recent decades: “Spartans! Ready your breakfast and eat hearty, for tonight, we dine in hell!” Although his words might’ve been a little overdramatic, they speak directly to the legacy of the Spartans, a warrior breed of ancient times. Ready your spears and swords — how much do you really know about the Spartans?

There's a reason why living quarters that are bare of decoration and somewhat plain and uncomfortable are called "Spartan." This culture eschewed niceties and creature comforts in favor of physical fitness and battle readiness.

If you think modern-day America is a militarized culture, compare the U.S. with the age of Spartans. At an incredibly young age, young boys were taken from their families and indoctrinated into the Spartan way. They weren’t individuals, they were exquisitely-trained cogs in the machinery of war. Do you know how Spartans trained for combat?

Enemy armies quivered in fear of the Spartans, who were known as fanatical and ferocious. Take up arms in this Spartan quiz now!

The Spartans were a legendary society in which part of the world?

Between the 6th and 4th centuries in Greece, Sparta was a society know for its fierce warriors. These men were highly trained and fought with incredible tenacity.

As the legend goes, one Spartan politician named Lycurgus proposed that the country should be guarded not by a wall of bricks but by what?

Who needs walls when you have muscular warriors armed with swords? Lycurgus helped promote the mentality that Sparta should train its men to an extreme extent to protect the country.

When did Spartan males began their interactions with the military?

Sparta was serious about its warriors. All babies were inspected to ensure that they’d make suitable warriors.

What did the leaders of Sparta do when babies were deemed unfit for military service?

Was your baby maybe a little cross-eyed or pigeon-toed? If Sparta’s leaders felt your child wasn’t really suited for warrior life, he was abandoned on a mountaintop.

The agoge was an important part of Spartan life. What was agoge?

The agoge was the military regimen that taught boys to fight. Young boys also learned to hunt, fend for themselves and work together as part of a team.

What was one of the most important lessons of agoge?

At agoge, boys were indoctrinated from the very beginning. They were taught that the defense of the state was more important than anything else.

At what age were boys placed in agoge?

At age 7, boys were taken from their families and placed in agoge. From then on, they became tools of the Spartan military.

Why did Sparta have no defensive walls, like the other countries in the area of Greece?

Sparta literally demolished its own walls. It was a show of boldness meant to reinforce their beliefs in the the power of their military to defend their homes.

How did Spartan families feel about the concept of agoge?

Spartan families viewed agoge as a great honor. They were more than happy to send their young sons off to train as warriors.

When baby boys were born, they were washed in which substance in hopes of making them very strong?

Infants were bathed in wine. This practice was performed in hopes of making the babies as strong as possible.

Babies regarded as unsuited were placed near a local mountain. What typically happened to them?

These days, we’d regard it as the ulitmate cruelty — leaving infants untended outdoors. Many Spartan babies simply died of exposure.

Who did the Spartans fight at the Battle of Thermopylae?

In 480 BC, the Spartans engaged in their most iconic fight ... the Battle of Thermopylae. There, they clashed with the Persians, who were led by Xerxes I.

How did the Battle of Thermopylae begin to take shape?

At the Battle of Thermopylae, the Persians had a vast army ... and the Spartans had only a few thousand. But they knew the terrain and put it to their advantage.

What were "The Hot Gates"?

The Hot Gates referred to narrow passageway at the Battle of Thermopylae. The Spartans funneled their Persian enemies into The Hot Gates, where Persian numercial superiority didn’t matter.

What was Xerxes I’s goal in attacking Sparta?

Xerxes I was infuriated by the defeat of his army at the Battle of Marathon. In response, he created an enormous military and set out to occupy all of Greece.

What was the "syssitia"?

The syssitia was a critical part of Spartan culture. There, the men shared a common meal instead of eating with their wives, yet another way that the society emphasized military over personal family life.

During agoge, why were boys purposely underfed?

Spartan leaders didn’t give boys in agoge enough food. The idea, of course, was to prepare the boys for the hardships of battle, when food was often scarce.

What was the primary purpose of women in Spartan society?

Women knew their purpose in Sparta — to make more warriors. And to that end, they were physically fit and active, all the better to make stronger, healthier babies.

Spartan warriors were not allowed to take wives until what age?

Their youth was dedicated to the military. Spartan warriors were not even allowed to take wives until they turned 30.

What happened to men who didn’t pass agoge?

Men who couldn’t pass agoge were deemed as lesser people. They were never granted full Spartan citizenship.

Men who completed agoge were granted full citizenship and also given what?

Truly, it was a honor for men to complete their agoge training. They not only became full citizens, but they got land, too.

During agoge, boys were encouraged to do what?

Boys in agoge were given the bare minimum to survive and encouraged to steal whatever else they needed. They weren’t scolded for stealing ... but they were punished harshly for getting caught.

Why were many Spartan men happy for the horrors of battle?

Spartan military training was relentlessly difficult. Men were often relieved to go off to actual battle, as it meant a break from the hardships of constant drills.

How long did the Battle of Thermopylae last?

For three days, the outnumbered Spartans beat back a Persian army that incredible power. Time and again, then Spartans stood tall, even though things would probably not end well for them.

How did the Persians eventually breach Spartan lines at the Battle of Thermopylae?

Today, his name is synonymous with backstabbing. Epihaltes, a Greek traitor, gave the Persians information about secret path that bypassed the Spartans, and the result was a Spartan defeat.

What role did the Perioeci have in Spartan society?

The Perioeci were tradesmen in Spartan society. They had a number of important functions, including weapons creation.

Spartan soldiers were also called what?

They were hoplites — Spartan soldiers. With their bronze helmets and large shields, hoplites intimidated enemies from all over the region.

Who were the Helots?

The Helots were the lowest people in Spartan society. They were the slaves. And they helped the country function by performing all essential tasks that made the machinery of civilization work.

What happened to the Spartan army at the island of Sphacteria in 425 BC?

In 425, at the island of Sphacteria, the virtually unthinkable happened. The Spartans surrendered. It was the end of an iconic age.

Spartan men were considered to be on active military duty until what age?

It was a nearly lifelong service. Spartan men started their training at 7 and served to age 60.

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