Sadistic Spartans

Sadistic Spartans


Header Artemis Orthia 2-4 horizon

One of the sexual delights that Western civilisation rarely understands is the practice of sadomasochism, of deliberately suffering pain in order to get the sexual high that accompanies the pain.

 It seems somehow illogical to deliberately suffer pain, but clearly some people find that being hurt gives them sexual pleasure. Various sports often involve the acceptance of a degree of pain, as does enduring a degree of cold – a cold bath for instance –  but the most common way of undergoing a masochistic experience is by being beaten on your bum, a wonderfully fleshy part of the anatomy  that seems designed to be the recipient of a good flogging. Such floggings were often part of a good education in public schools where the boys were beaten with a slipper or caned, which gave them a taste for being caned by their wives and mistresses in later lives.

In America too, the fraternities in universities often had initiation ceremonies or rites of passage where you had to be paddled with a  wooden paddle to show that one could endure pain before being admitted.

Indeed, the recent success of the novel 50 Shades of Gray suggests that many people like to read about girls being flogged and perhaps even wish that they could be flogged themselves.

The best example of sadomasochism in the classical world comes from Sparta where young boys – or teenagers — were thrashed soundly to show their endurance.

Let us investigate the temple of Artemis Orthia.



Artemis Orthia 2-4 PSE 150sh

The ritual floggings of year of young men and teenagers took place here at the Temple of Artemis Orthia outside the main inhabited area, down by the river.

Here we see the Temple with the altar at the centre which served as the flogging stool, and the Temple to the right, with modern Sparta in the in the distance behind.

Two different versions of the ceremony have been recorded. Xenophon tells us that cheeses were placed on the altar, which was defended by warriors known as the whip bearers and the young boys had to run the gauntlet of the whips to steal the cheeses, and then run back again, being whipped all  the time. 


Sparta Artemis Orthia altar -003

 In another version recorded by Plutarch, the boys stretched themselves naked over the altar,  and were flogged in a ritual ceremony until they cried out.

A priestess stood by carrying the wooden statue of the goddess and if she felt that the flogging was not severe enough, either because the boy came from a good family or because he was too pretty, she said that the goddess was feeling heavy and those doing the whipping increased the severity of their strokes.

Here we see the altar which the boys would bend over while receiving their whipping



Sparta Artemis Orthia theatre -001

 The ceremonies continued until Roman times when Sparta reinvented itself as a tourist destination and it became a popular entertainment to watch the floggings and see how long the boys could endure until eventually they cried out.

Indeed, it became so popular that a theatre was erected around the temple site, and here we see the base of the seating in the bottom left-hand side of the photo.  When the floggings took place, it would be filled with ardent Roman tourists cheering on the flogging.

Cicero recorded his recollections of the floggings that he witnessed when as a young man he visited Sparta in 78 BC as part of his education. He recalled that the boys were scourged until the blood flowed from their backs, but they never cried out. It is always fun seeing young boys being flogged, and the Roman spectators got very excited and felt very sexy at this.



This famous painting by Degas, now in the National Gallery, was originally painted in 1860, though then later updated by the artist. The picture shows semi-naked Spartan girls taunting naked Spartan boys.

It was said that the mythical lawgiver Lycurgus did away with prudery, making the young girls no less than the young men grow used to walking nude in processions. Indeed there was a spectacle known as the gymnopaedia in which the young men and girls would dance naked in a circle with the women making fun of the young men if they did not dance lewdly enough.

No doubt the boys having endured their flogging would be properly aroused, and exercise their sexual passions on the naked girls, who would show their toughness by by being thoroughly raped, resisting all the  way

There is no record of the girls being flogged, but clearly they were as nude as the boys and the result of all the exercise was that the Spartans became notable Warriors, and won all their victories until finally they were defeated in 370 BC. 

But the Spartans provide the best evidence for sadomasochism in the ancient in ancient Greece.



On to: 

Sacred Prostitution

or Masturbation in Ibiza

or on to those naughty Romans


 2nd March