Nor was their training in music and poetry any less serious a concern than the emulous purity of their speech, nay, their very songs had a stimulus that roused the spirit and awoke enthusiastic and effectual effort; the style of them was simple and unaffected, and their themes were serious and edifying. They were for the most part praises of men who had died for Sparta, calling them blessed and happy; censure of men who had played the coward, picturing their grievous and ill-starred life; and such promises and boasts of valour as befitted the different ages.
Of the last, it may not be amiss to cite one, by way of illustration. They had three choirs at their festivals, corresponding to the three ages, and the choir of old men would sing first:—
We once did deeds of prowess and were strong young men.
Then the choir of young men would respond:—
We are so now, and if you wish, behold and see.
And then the third choir, that of the boys, would sing:—
We shall be sometime mightier men by far than both.
In short, if one studies the poetry of Sparta, of which some specimens were still extant in my time, and makes himself familiar with the marching songs which they used, to the accompaniment of the flute, when charging upon their foes, he will conclude that Terpander and Pindar were right in associating valour with music. The former writes thus of the Lacedaemonians:—
Flourish there both the spear of the brave and the Muse's clear message,
Justice, too, walks the broad streets—.
And Pindar says:—1
There are councils of Elders,
And young men's conquering spears,
And dances, the Muse, and joyousness.
The Spartans are thus shown to be at the same time most musical and most warlike;
In equal poise to match the sword hangs the sweet art of the harpist,
as their poet says. For just before their battles, the king sacrificed to the Muses, reminding his warriors, as it would seem, of their training, and of the firm decisions they had made, in order that they might be prompt to face the dread issue, and might perform such martial deeds as would be worthy of some record.2