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The word spartan as it is used today first appeared in the 1600s, though the term reaches back to the time of ancient Greece. We will examine the meaning of the word spartan, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

The word spartan describes something that lacks creature comforts, something that is austere and without ornament or luxury. Something that is spartan is very basic, without frills, simple. Spartan is an adjective. The word Spartan may also be used to signify a citizen of Sparta or an object directly related to the city state of Sparta. When used in this manner, the word Spartan is capitalized. Sparta holds a unique place in Greek history. Ancient Sparta was place that was known for its elite armies. Spartan warriors underwent rigorous military training that resulted in soldiers who were mentally and physically strong. The Spartan army had a reputation for discipline, endurance and courage, and are still admired for their heroic combat. Spartan soldiers consisted of citizens or Spartiates, often these citizens were hoplites who carried only a shield and a spear. Helots were serfs gleaned from conquered cities, and were also attached to armies. Perhaps the most famous battle fought by the Spartan military was the Battle of Thermopylae, part of the Persian Wars. The battle took place in 480 BC at Thermopylae, Greece, a narrow pass near the coast. Thermopylae translates as Hot Gates. The historian Herodotus tells us that 300 Spartans led by King Leonidas held off the Persian Empire for a time, but were defeated in the end. Many bronze arrowheads have been recovered from the Thermopylae area. In a rage, Xerxes is said to have beheaded Leonidas after his death, and crucified his dead body. The invasion from Persia continued until Xerxes’ empire suffered defeat in the Battle of Salamis and the Battle of Mycale. Forty years after Leonidas fell in battle, his bones were exhumed and brought back to Sparta. Athletic games were held yearly in his honor. Today, the word spartan has been in use for so long that it is no longer directly linked to the Greek city state of Sparta, and is properly rendered with a lowercase s. The word spartan no longer applies to just the battlefield. Challenging situations in which people compete in an intense manner, follow a rigorous nutrition or training plan may be said to be following a spartan discipline. Many high school athletic teams are named for the Spartans, as are brutal and grueling athletic contests, obstacle races and mud runs. Synonyms for spartan that may be found in a thesaurus are: simple, austere, tough, disciplined, strong, basic.


It was there, in the bowels of the titular salmon-hued split-level, that the Band forwent the Summer of Love’s Technicolor psychedelia to plumb the depths of their musical past amid unfussy, almost spartan conditions in upstate New York. (People Magazine)

He wrote them while living in spartan conditions at Thunder Sound Studio, which occupies a repurposed rubber band factory in the picturesque town of Franklin, Ky.  (Nashville Scene)

Coming off a second place finish at the IWU Twilight invite, Ball State Cross Country will face a tall task this weekend in the Spartan Invitational at Michigan State University. (The Ball State Daily News)

For the first time in China, races in all three Spartan categories – Sprint, Super and Beast, over distances of between 5-plus and 20-plus kilometres and with 20-plus to 30-plus obstacles – were offered. (The South China Morning Post)