If you’ve read any of the books from my historical fantasy series The Osteria Chronicles*, you’ll be well familiar with the Areans, those pesky folks from the Aryana polis (city-state).
*Quick note…I’m offering a huge discount on the Osteria Chronicles box set…see the end of the post for this amazing deal.
As with many aspects of Osterian life and culture, the Areans were inspired by actual history. Namely, the Spartans. Cue Gerard Butler…
Anyway, the Spartans were crazy tough people who lived in Sparta (obviously), a city-state of Ancient Greece that lasted from roughly 650 BCE to 370 BCE.
And by tough, I mean, their entire lives revolved around fighting and military strength. There was no room in their world for trade, for building, for art, for democracy, or for all the other froufrou stuff the Athenians were getting up to during this same time period.
Entire lives, you say? Surely they had a bit of fun as kids. Nope. First off, the moment you popped out of mom’s womb, you had to survive an initial inspection by dear old dad. If he found you lacking in any way, he chucked you in the bin. Another inspection occurred as part of your fifth birthday party, you know, just in case you’d developed some weird deformities or mental issues in those first five years.
But yay! You survived until you turned seven. Time to join the military. At seven years old, boys were sent to the Agoge, a military academy that turned you into one fierce fighter who wasn’t bothered by pain, cold, hunger, or killing. The only point of being male in Spartan society was to fight for the state of Sparta and, assuming you survived all your battles, you might serve well into your 60s.
Sorry, now I can’t stop thinking about Gerard Butler…
Wait, where were we? Oh, right, Sparta.
Women in Sparta actually didn’t have it too bad compared to other places around the world at this time. Unlike other women, Spartan women were given a full education, participated in sports to stay physically fit, and could own their own property. With their men going off to fight, women were pretty much left to rule the roost and played a strong role in managing the city-state.
And as we learn in the movie/graphic novel 300, Spartan women knew how great they were…
Of course, as a woman who could have their kid killed the moment it was born, their seven-year-old sons ripped away from them, and husbands who might die at any moment, Spartan woman were tough cookies with a fierce strength.
In a famous line, Spartan women told their men who were leaving for battle not to return unless they were carrying their shields or being carried on their shields. In other words, you can come back dead or you can come back a winner, but do not come back if you lose.
In the Osteria Chronicles…
And what does this have to do with my own Areans? Loads!
With the patron god of Aryana being the war god Ares, it was a natural fit to make the Areans similar to the Spartans. They both live for fighting and little else.
Just as the Spartans didn’t engage in trade or agriculture, neither can the Areans be bothered with such things. After all, there’s battles to be fought! Although they do keep some sheep, much of an Arean’s food and other resources comes from raiding other poli (city-states) and stealing what they need.
Because the Areans are too busy fighting and raiding to bother with art and architecture, the Aryana polis is bland compared to the lavish capital cities of the rest of Osteria. In The Bonds of Osteria: Book Four of the Osteria Chronicles, Aphrodite, while she adores Ares, comments that…
One thing’s for certain, when I’m head goddess, there’s going to be an extensive redecorating of Ares’s polis. Just look at this temple of his where I’ve been sneaking off to meet him. Sure, it’s big and bold and leaves people in no doubt of the Arean strength, but like everything else in Aryana it lacks any artistic touches.
Growing up is just as tough for Areans as it is for Spartans. Like the Spartans, training starts early and leaves no room for wimps.
Hector gives some indication of this in Chapter One of The Battle of Ares: Book Five of the Osteria Chronicles…
Their bodies are lean as if fat doesn’t dare adhere to their fiercely defined muscles. I’ve heard in their first and most strenuous year of training the Areans are allowed to only eat once a day. A small portion of meat and porridge. If any of them complain of hunger or collapse from lack of energy, they are ridiculed, taunted, and shamed as a tube is shoved down their throats and they’re force fed until they die.
Yikes. Let’s just say life under Arean rule would be harsh, which is why it’s such a threat to all of Osteria when the Areans invade and take control of the polis of Demos in The Battle of Ares.
After all, Demos grows most of Osteria’s grain supply that, if cut off, could leave the Osterians starving. As they say, whoever controls the grain, controls all of Osteria.
I hope this gives you another quick glimpse into the world of Osteria. If you’d like to explore further, you can always take my Tour of Osteria (don’t worry, it’s coronavirus-free and you won’t feel a lick of jet lag!).
Have a great rest of the week, everyone!!
Want more Sparta? Then check out this wonderfully animated and informative video!!
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And for a very limited time, you can pick up this collection for less than a dollar!
The set also includes The Trials of Hercules, The Voyage of Heroes, The Maze of Minos, plus several exclusive bonus features to take you deeper into the world of Osteria.
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6 thoughts on “Behind the Book: This is Sparta!”
So I don’t know how I’m just discovering these books since I devoured Domna, but I finally started reading this series. Loved the first book and I’m looking forward to the rest!
Aw, thanks, Sarah! I’m always a little embarrassed (not the right word, but close enough) about the first couple books since they were my first “real” novels and I’ll always feel they’re a bit clunky (and probably need a re-edit), but I’m thrilled to hear that you’re enjoying them :))
I know that feeling. But I think you can be pretty proud of your work.
:)) (insert extreme blushing)…Thank you!
Gerald Butler was hot as Leonaidis but he is a super bad actor lol, so stop thinking about him 😉
You know, now that you mention it, I don’t think I’ve seen anything with him in it other than 300…and apparently that’s a good thing! Thanks for the warning :))
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