Comparison of Spartan and Samurai Warriors

of Spartan and Samurai Warriors

Both Feudal Japan and Ancient Sparta are
renowned for their outstanding soldiery. Each had distinctly different
military styles owing to the differences in their lifestyles and beliefs.

The Japanese soldier had a balanced view of himself as a whole person,
studying both martial and literary techniques, whereas the Spartan soldier
was born and raised to become a soldier. Both techniques were extremely
successful in developing a fighting force that was the elite of their times.

The Core of feudal japans military force
was the samurai. The development of the samurai in ninth-century Japan
occurred when the centralized aristocratic government lost power to the
local landowners who employed their own armed forces. The heads of these
armed forces were known as the "bushi" or "samurai", and were for the most
part descended from the old clans (Sato, 1995). The samurai gave their
society moral values and acted as sentinels of peace.

During the shogunate of the Tokugawa family
the samurai as a class were transformed into military bureaucrats and were
required to master leadership skills as well as military arts (Wilson,

1994). This trend became more and more apparent as time went on.

The samurai no longer believed that being a good warrior was all that was
necessary. The samurai now believed that the complete man was one
with a balance of both martial and literate skills. Training now
involved leadership skills, meditation and poetry. By doing this,
the shoguns ensured an army of elite soldiers that had the capacity to
lead others or think for themselves if necessary. This training eventually
had the effect of many warriors reverting to a study of Buddhism.

The training of soldiers was perhaps the
biggest difference between the two civilizations. A Spartan male
was trained for fighting and nothing else from the day he was born, as
opposed to the more all-round training of the samurai. At age six, a Spartan
boy would leave the company of women to live in barracks with other boys
his age. They were given very slim rations and expected to steal whatever
else they needed to eat. The only shame was in getting caught or in not
being strong if punished. There were stories of Spartan boys who died under
punishment. They also were taught military discipline, obedience, toughness
and endurance. Spartans did not consider the arts of reading and writing
necessary. Boys learned the Iliad and songs of war and religion,
however, leaping, running, wrestling, and wielding a weapon with grace
and accuracy were believed to be much more important.

The whole way of life, the constitution
of the state, the system of education of ancient Sparta were calculated
to one end - the maintenance of an army of experts who were ready and able
at any moment to suppress sedition within the state or repel invasion form
without (Michell, 1952). The Spartan was a professional soldier and
nothing else, and his education was directed entirely to two ends - physical
fitness and obedience to authority. Within these two margins the

Spartan soldier was superbly capable. From the moment of his birth
to the time when he was too old to be of any further active use, the Spartan
was subject to discipline. His individuality was submerged to a degree
seldom, if ever, matched by any other country.

This method of training developed a finely
honed soldier that excelled in combat. However, because of the narrow
spectrum of skills studied, a Spartan soldier was simply an excellent soldier
and nothing else. This could be seen as an advantage or a disadvantage
for the Spartan soldier. In one regard he excelled in the art of
combat, on the other, he had little to no skill in any other area.

"The Spartan soldier was exactly that - a soldier. They had no knowledge
of how to do anything else." (Michell, 1952, pg. 183). However, a
link does exist between the two civilizations - both were willing to die
if necessary to protect their masters.

The Japanese samurai followed their own
code of ethical behavior known as bushido, which remained orally transmitted
for generations (Koya, 1992). Bushido means "Way of the Warrior."

It was at the heart of the beliefs and conduct of the Samurai. The philosophy
of Bushido is "freedom from fear." It meant that the Samurai transcended
his fear of death. This gave him the peace and power to serve his master
faithfully and loyally and die well if necessary. Duty is a primary
philosophy of the Samurai. The following text was written in the seventeenth
century by a samurai who had become a