The Laconic Spartans

The Laconic Spartans

The ancient Spartans, who dressed simply, without overt displays of wealth or station, lived in the Peloponnesian region of Laconia.

Their use of language reflected the austerity of their ethos, being similarly blunt, terse and to the point. They despised excess and ostentatiousness of any kind, including communication. They were famous for what we now call laconic use of language.A laconic phrase may be used for efficiency (as during military training and operations), for emphasis, for philosophical reasons (especially among thinkers who believe in minimalism, such as Stoics), or to deflate a pompous speaker.

Even their humour was dry and understated, and several historical instances of this have been recorded through history, such as: When Phillip II of Macedon threatened their borders with invasion in the third century BC, he sent an emissary to demand their submission, who conveyed the message:

“You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city” The response sent back to the Macedonian king from the Spartan court was only one word: “if”.

Neither Phillip, nor his son Alexander the Great ever dared to attack Sparta.

Spartans were raised to be men of few words and to hold yapping and excess conversation in disdain. This was in direct contrast to the Athenian Greeks, who held themselves to be superior because of the refinement, and poetic complexity of their prose. However, it was not lost on several prominent Greeks that the Spartan’s minimalist attitude to words was in no way an indication of stupidity. Socrates was once quoted as saying:

“if you talk to any ordinary Spartan, he seems to be stupid, but eventually, like an expert marksman, he shoots in some brief remark that proves you to be only a child”.

Spartans, like most warrior cultures lived their lives with a constant preparedness for death. Anything that was thought to dull their senses and distract them from their mission was considered frivolous and unmasculine.

While you might think that in today’s world, such austere thinking is a bit over the top, maybe pause to consider how prepared you were to cope with the various crises that you’ve found yourself in, like the present coronavirus pandemic, for example. What would have the spartans, samurai, or knights templar thought about it? Would they have experienced the kind of stress that you do?

When I think about the rise and decline of civilisations throughout history, it seems that their most vigorous expansile and powerful times were when they held a similar, masculine, minimalist ethos. When they became seduced by luxury and indulgence, they began to rot from the inside.

Perhaps our civilisation is also now at that juncture.

I’ve seen a lot of memes, recommendations and quotes in the various success forums that recommend a man to play his cards close to his chest, to say less rather than more. Instead of telling everyone what you are going to achieve, and the elaborate way you are going to go about it, that you should just shut up, and get on with it. They’ll see your results for themselves, soon enough. Overly sharing your plans makes you vulnerable to sabotage.

It’s as though talking about your plans is a form of procrastination, where you lack the simple clarity and focus to get going, so you talk to others about it, as if you were actually trying to talk yourself into it.

The more you talk, then, the lower your self esteem seems to be.

So men who talk very little, conversely, give off an aura of self confidence. They don’t need the approval or opinion of others. They just get on with it. Like the Spartans.

Intelligent acquaintances, like Socrates, will pick up on that soon enough. And that particularly includes women, who seem to prefer a man who is just that little bit mysterious and aloof.

A man of any experience knows, that the harder you try to impress a woman, cajole or lavish her with constant validation, the more pathetic it eventually makes you look in her eyes. All talk and no action.

Being interested but not smitten, is a sure sign of a man who is on a mission and has his priorities set. Think of how Hollywood has portrayed the laconic strong, silent type.

I grew up watching Westerns, with Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. All independent, self-reliant men who just got on with it, never complaining, and who took thinks as they came. Stoic, in every sense. There was a definite aim to portray these as desirable qualities for American men to aspire to.

Then later on we similarly had the lone wolf anti-hero’s like James Bond, Indiana Jones, Han Solo, Rambo, and Mad Max. Lets not forget the dark side – with Darth Vader, Michael Corleone or even Tony Soprano. All laconic in their own way.

Or how about literature, with Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Sherlock Holmes, John Carter, Tarzan and many others, too numerous to mention.

They were all men on a mission, who didn’t talk too much.

Psychologists today refer to this entire masculine genre as toxic and damaging to men as well as women. Supposedly men died from more heart attacks because they bottled things up, but now things are much better. Especially with antidepressants and lots of counselling. Stay away from your fathers and grandfathers, because they are supposedly toxic.

Heart attacks are still on the rise, and medication for it is going through the roof. Not to mention depression and suicide.

Can we learn anything else from the Spartans then?

Most importantly, they didn’t care what anyone else thought.

I’ve heard it said that what someone says about you behind your back is none of your business.

That’s a good start. Trying to convince them through dialogue, argument and explanation only makes us look pathetic, according to the spartans.

When people engage you, treat excessive verbiage with disdain.

If they can’t get their point across succinctly, they probably don’t understand what they are trying to convince you of. Hold yourself to the same standards.

Like you, I trawl across youtube and podcasts, looking for inspirational and education material to improve myself.

When I see an hour, two, or more of some interview or lecture, I tend to just keep scrolling. I rarely feel like spending two hours watching someone waffle on just so I can extract a couple of minutes worth of gems. I want to get what I came for, and then be on my way.

Hopefully you’ll get a decent return on investment watching my videos, and then be on your way.

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