The Lacedaemonian Polity banishes Archilochus’ Poetry; some interesting socio-political elements

In this post we present and discuss an excerpt from Valerius Maximus.

Val. Max. 6. 3. 

Latin: “Lacedaemonii libros Archilochi e civitate sua exportare iusserunt, quod eorum parum verecundam ac pudicam lectionem arbitrabantur; noluerunt enim ea liberorum suorum animos imbui, ne plus moribus noceret quam ingeniis prodesset. itaque maximum poetam, aut certe summo proximum, quia domum sibi invisam obscenis maledictis laceraverat, carminum exilio multarunt”

English: “The Spartans (Lacedaemonians) ordered that the books of Archilochus be removed from their city, because they considered their text to be not even to a minimum pious and decent. Because they did not want these to be instilled in the souls of their children, so that their morals would not be harmed more than their talent would benefit. Thus, the greatest poet, or at least the closest to the highest poet, because he harmed a family he hated with filthy aspersion, was punished with the exile of his poems.”

Archilochus

NovoScriptorium: Let’s now see what we learn from the above story.

-The Lacedaemonians, above anything else, had placed the morals of their young.

-Having proper morals was much more appreciated than having/evolving talent.

-Piety and decency constituted foundation stones of the Lacedaemonian Polity. 

-The Lacedaemonian Polity showed absolutely no will for tolerance towards impiety and indecency.

-What could be instilled in the souls of their children constituted “top priority” for the Lacedaemonians.

-If impious and idecent things get instilled in the souls of children, then their morals will be harmed.

-Art (here Poetry) should promote Piety and Decency; no Art that promotes the opposite could be tolerated by the Lacedaemonian Polity.

-To avoid moral corruption, the Lacedaemonian Polity showed determination and strictness, to the point of exiling the works of one of the most talented poets back then.

-In order to avoid corruption among the population, and especially of their youngsters – and eventually the decay of their Polity- the Lacedaemonians did not hesitate to apply censorship, banish and exile methods, whenever needed.

In conclusion of our short analysis, the series of events for the fall a Polity appears to go like this: “talented corruptors” (usually Artists) emerge who rapidly or slowly instill the venom of impiety and indecency in the souls of the young; this harms the morals of all but, above anyone else of the youngsters, who are the future of the Polity. While moral decay, impiety and indecency begin to prevail, it becomes a matter of Time for the Polity to dissolve.  

Research-Analysis for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos

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