The Spartan Army

The Spartan Army

The Spartan Sacrifice

Everyone knows the story of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. Immortalized a few years ago in a movie with the simple title ‘300’. These Spartan warriors fought against the invading Persian army, and died. Persia had decided to invade Greece, so that they could be subjugated and pay tributes to the great Persian empire. A huge army and fleet was sent to attack the Greeks. A small Greek force was sent forward, to Thermopylae, to defend and hold the Persians as long as they could.

Not only Spartans were present at the battle, but their last stance is what legends are made of. They fought until the bitter end. After their weapons had broken or been lost, they continued fighting with tooth and nail. So many arrows rained down upon them, that it blocked out the sun. They were slaughtered. Moreover, they had known from the start that this was a suicide mission. Death was a worthy sacrifice for something greater. Something greater than their own lives, something they considered worth dying for. Freedom.

What is Freedom?

What freedom are we talking about here? The Spartans lived by strict, austere rules. Their lives were filled with mandatory military training and obligatory communal contribution. As far as individual freedom went, the Spartans didn’t have much. The community was more important than their individual lives. Law and religion determined how they were to live their life. Democracy was fully absent from Sparta.

So what did they die for? That other kind of freedom, frequently referred to in history. The freedom of a people to rule themselves, to live by their own laws and traditions. The ability to take actions based on what is in their best interest, rather than being forced to follow the commands of their Persian overlords. How much taxes Persia demanded did not matter. How much liberty Persia would grant them with regards to their customs did not matter – because ultimately they were still submitting to Persia’s rule. Any leniency with respect to Spartan culture, or any financial stimulus, would not be their own initiative. They would hand over the control to make decisions. Decisions that would severely impact how they live their lives.

Freedom was synonymous with sovereignty. The idea that the community, with whichever power structure it might have, decides its own faith. The Spartans died to remain sovereign, instead of letting the Persians become their overlord.

Sparta declines the Persian offer to join their empire

Sparta declines the Persian offer to join their empire

The European Union

The concept of sovereignty, so critical in the past that people would give their lives for it, is looked down upon today. The desire for sovereignty is seen as some odd, fringe, nationalist idea. The idea that a people should have the final say about their own faith, rather than having to explain their decisions to a higher power, is now seen as backwards. It is seen as progressive to give up a bit of sovereignty, it is for the greater good to give some of it to the European Union.

However, the interests of the EU may not match with the interests of the people in some of the member-states. Those peoples may wish to rule themselves, rather than being told by a German-controlled EU what to do. Sure, in some cases it will work out well. In other cases, such as Greece during the crisis, the EU and the IMF explicitly told Greece what to do. Now, the Greece ports are owned by the Chinese, as they were forced to privatize to be able to pay off their debt. Was that really in the long-term interest of Greece?

If Greece would have kept the Spartan spirit, they would have rather suffered briefly, and work towards a brighter future ahead. They would not have bowed to the will of the EU, when it went against everything the Greeks desired. Their politicians preferred to stay in the union, rather than serve the interests of Greece. That self-determination, that is what Greece surrendered when it joined the Euro.

Sparta joins Persia?

Yes, if Sparta would have joined Persia they would have still existed. They could have decided to give up some of their sovereignty, in exchange for the benefits of being part of the Persian empire. Surely that would mean they could trade freely across the empire. It would mean the Persian military was stronger than ever with the contributions of the Greeks now included in their ranks. It would, without a doubt, serve the interests of the Persian empire. War could have been prevented if only the Spartans had surrendered!

A proponent of the European Union, must feel nothing but regret when watching the movie ‘300’. If only the Spartans had been wiser, if only they had surrendered. All this bloodshed could have been prevented. After all, their sacrifice was a waste in the eyes of the Europhile. Why throw your life away for something as ridiculous as sovereignty?

So why don’t we feel that way? Why do we consider these men brave, instead of foolish?  It appears that deep down, all of us realize the importance of sovereignty. The Greeks under Persia would have been taxed when the empire required it. The Greeks would have been drafted into wars on the other side of the empire. Greece would not be able to follow their own interests, and ultimately this would weaken them. In this sense, who the overlord is matters little. Persia and the EU, both serve their own interests first and foremost, and those of the Greeks second.