Remnants of Proto-Indo-European Society in Sparta

During my research on the spartan Agoge I came across a book by Nigel M. Kennel., in which he suggests that the comparatively conservative Spartan society had retained some distinctly Proto-Indo-European features:

The burial in three separate tombs of priests, warrior Spartiates, and agricultural slaves matches the idéologie tripartie of early Indo-European society.67 Comparative research into the mythological and social systems of the Greeks, Romans, and other peoples who spoke languages derived from a common precursor known as proto-Indo-European has shown that their early ancestors conceived of society as divided into three distinct orders or functions: priests and kings, warriors, and herder-cultivators. Given the Spartans’ conservatism, they may be expected to have preserved some customs of their early Indo-European ancestors down into the fifth century, especially in the realm of battle. Classical Spartan society did preserve some unmistakably Indo-European relics. For instance, the sign of Spartiate status was long hair, a distinct feature of Indo-European societies.68 The red cloaks Spartiates wore in battle had been a mark of the second function in Indo-European society, the warrior.69 The heavenly protectors of Spartan kings, Castor and Pollux, the Dioscuri, were descendants of the Indo-European Divine Twins, gods of the second and third functions.70

Kennel, Nigel M.: The Gymnasium Of Virtue., p. 14-15. University of North Carolina Press 1995. (Kindle-Edition).

Kennel is clearly referring to George Dumezil’s “idéologie tripartie” of Proto-Indo-European society in the first part of the quote, which in itself remains controversial, yet intriguing. The author then goes on and argues his point by comparing other elements of Spartan society to, in his opinion, typical Indo-European traits: The red cloaks of free Spartans and the protector gods of the Spartan Kings, “descendant of the Indo-European Divine Twins“. Kennel makes some very interesting points here. The very untypical Spartan double monarchy may itself be “inspired” by the Divine Twins.


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