The Athenian general Nikias famously said “It is not walls that make a city but men.”
Similarly, Spartans took the greatest pride not in the buildings or temples of their city (there wasn’t much to look at), nor even in their laws and festivals, but in the character of their citizens.
But even so, some were more “Spartan” than others.
One example is Callicratidas, a Spartan admiral who fought in the great struggle against the Athenians, the Peloponnesian war.
At a moment when he was having difficulty paying for rations for his sailors and soldiers, a rich man from an allied city approached him with an offer.
“Let me murder one of my rivals without punishment, and I’ll give you 50 talents [= a lot] of silver for your hungry men.”
One of his lieutenants, another Spartan, pulled him aside. “Sir, I would take the money, if I were you.”
“So would I,” said Callicratidas “if I were you.”
Callicratidas knew how much it mattered to Sparta that he personally uphold the highest possible standards of character.
He knew that, if Spartans ceased to be Spartans, then Sparta would cease to be Sparta.
Your character is your most important asset, as Sertorius knew. But it is also the greatest offering you can give to your family, your community, your country.