Every Autumn the Spartans had a period wherein their young men

Every Autumn, the Spartans had a period wherein their young men would go into the countryside with daggers and kill slaves without punishment as part of a “manhood test”

Encyclopedia Crypteia

Krypteia or Crypteia was a tradition involving young Spartans, part of the agoge (Spartan education). Its goal and nature are still a matter of discussion among historians.

Young Spartan men who had completed their training at the agoge with such success that they were marked out as potential future leaders, would be given the opportunity to test their skills and prove themselves worthy of the Spartan military tradition through participation in the kryptia.

Every autumn, according to Plutarch (Life of Lycurgus, 28, 3–7), the Spartan Ephors would pro forma declare war on the Helot population so that any Spartan citizen could kill a Helot without fear of blood guilt. Armed only with dagger, the Krypteria were sent out into the countryside with the instructions to kill any Helot they encountered at night and to take any food they needed. This could be used to remove any Helots considered troublesome and provide the young men with a manhood test and experience of their first kill. Such brutal oppression of the Helots permitted the Spartans to control the agrarian population and devote themselves to military practice. It may also have contributed to the Spartans’ reputation for stealth.

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