My favorite story about Sparta that is the one where men stuff weasels down their shirts.
It was a real thing! Plucky young Spartan men tested themselves in various ways to see who was bravest, or at least, able to endure huge amounts of pain without flinching. Plutarch writes about this in Customs of the Sparta where he says:
The boys in Sparta were lashed with whips during the entire day at the altar of Artemis Orthia, frequently to the point of death, and they bravely endured this, cheerful and proud, vying with one another for supremacy as to which one of them could endure being beaten for the longer time and the greater number of blows. And the one who was victorious was held in especial repute. This competition is called ‘The Flagellation,’ and it takes place each year.
Right, that was a super fun competition for them, and, like Christmas, they wished it happened every day, not just once a year. But in the intervening days the boys did the weasel thing, stuffing those animals down their shirts and seeing who could keep them there the longer. Weasels aren’t like kittens. They claw (and bite, I think) you if you clutch them inside your clothing.
A lot of young men died from this. Self inflicted death by weasel wounds was a serious problem in Sparta.
Well, it was a time before television.
Sad the producers left this activity out of the 300.
Look, I want to point out that movie was somewhat misleading. Not because the men shouted, “Tonight we dine in hell!” I am 100% certain at some point someone in a Spartan army said that. Spartans liked brave, and simultaneously dismal, phrases. Have you heard the Spartan anthem?