Sunday, August 12, 2007

Now That's Queer

Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Gravel of Alaska was asked about 'gay issues' on this YouTube video. Here is a transcripted portion of his answer:

[...]If you had any knowledge of history, ancient history, in Sparta they encouraged homosexuality because they fight for the people they love. And if it's your partner and you love them, you're prepared to die for them, and that's the same ethic you see in the military today. It's not the country. It's my partner. Go see the movies on war, and it's always the person next to me who is in my foxhole with me. Well, I got to tell you, extend that a little further and you'll see why the Spartans trained their people to be homosexuals, because they're better fighters.

Historical accounts of Spartan military/cultural training are generally as follows:
[...]The military and the city-state became the center of Spartan existence. The state determined whether children, both male and female, were strong when they were born; weakling infants were left in the hills to die of exposure. Exposing weak or sickly children was a common practice in the Greek world, but Sparta institutionalized it as a state activity rather than a domestic activity. At the age of seven, every male Spartan was sent to military and athletic school. These schools taught toughness, discipline, endurance of pain (often severe pain), and survival skills. At twenty, after thirteen years of training, the Spartan became a soldier. The Spartan soldier spent his life with his fellow soldiers; he lived in barracks and ate all his meals with his fellow soldiers. He also married, but he didn't live with his wife; one Athenian once joked that Spartans had children before they even saw the face of their wives.[...] 1

Threatened by Messenian revolt and hostile neighbors, Spartan males were trained from birth to be functioning members of an armed camp. Spartan infants were assessed by the state at birth as to whether they had the robust qualities requisite to become warriors. Weakling infants were left in the mountains to die. Surviving males were thrust into military training at age seven. Made to endure the cold, naked or with minimal clothing, and fed only black broth and rough fare, Spartan boys were encouraged to steal food. The idea was resultant cleverness would help in foraging when, as soldiers, they later took part in warfare; while the self-denial imposed on the youth was designed to toughen bodies and make Spartans indifferent to hardship. The classic, but no doubt apocryphal story of this indifference to pain is the legend of the Spartan boy who had stolen a fox, which he concealed under his cloak. Rather than reveal his secret, so the story goes, the lad allowed the fox to gnaw into his stomach. 2

A History Channel program also notes that many young men were killed in training and that one requirement to complete training was to kill a Helot slave and not get caught.

Get a grip, Gravel.

RESEARCH UPDATE: Perhaps I have been a tad hasty in criticizing Mr. Gravel. Our dispute is due to alternate translations of a short composition by the Greek poet Simonides concerning Thermopylae:

Greek: Ὦ ξεῖν’, ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε
κείμεθα, τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.

Transliteration: O xein', angellein Lakedaimoniois hoti têde
keimetha tois keinon rhémasi peithomenoi.

Latin: Die, hospes, Spartae nos te hie vidisse jacentes.
Dum sanctis patriae legibus obsequtnur.

It is my understanding that Mike Gravel's translation, the diligent work by movie star rapper/Greek scholar, Bustacapinyoass, renders, 'We died defending our homosexual foxholemates in our sacred love.'

Less scholarly, but more commonly, translators render the poem, "Go passenger, and tell at Lacedaemon [Sparta], that we died here in obedience to her sacred laws."

My postmodern apologies to Mr. Gavel for the understandable mix up.

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