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Spartan Infanticide Truly the merciless warriors of legend?

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April Kincaid
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« on: July 26, 2011, 12:49:43 am »

Spartan Infanticide
Truly the merciless warriors of legend?

Text: Mat Coward / Images: Hunt Emerson
   
June 2011
mythbuster - spartans




The myth

Unhealthy or disabled babies born to the militaristic Spartans were thrown off a cliff. Sparta carried no passengers.


The “truth”

The apothetes, or pit, at the foot of the cliff in question, near Mount Taygete, was excavated by archæologists in the 2000s. Long analysis of the findings found plenty of bones – but none of them belonged to infants. Instead they were all identified, by researchers from the Athens Faculty of Medicine, as having come from men between the ages of 18 and 35, who died in the 5th and 6th centuries BC. This supports the belief that criminals, traitors and prisoners of war were indeed executed in this manner – but not babies. The myth seems to have begun with, or to have been popularised by, Plutarch writing long afterwards, in the first century AD. The attractions of the story are clear: it can show either how barbaric the Spartans were, or else the necessity and rewards of ruthlessness, depending on the particular propaganda needs of the teller.


Sources

ABC News, 11 Dec 2007


Disclaimer

Just because they haven’t found any bones, does that mean there weren’t any? As ever, you are invited to disagree and discuss, without mercy, through the letters page.

http://www.forteantimes.com/strangedays/mythbusters/5575/spartan_infanticide.html
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