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 ...