To be efficient is to use minimum energy for maximum output and results. In a species,
efficiency is adaptive and, if done right,
proves to be a competitive advantage.
The ancient Mediterranean cultures knew the value of frugality, of doing more with less. Or most with least.
The historian Plutarch writes how the Spartans were known across the Greek world for their literary parsimony. Embracing a life of down-to-earthism, of maximum efficiency and minimum BS, the Spartans took the same approach to letters.
According to Plutarch, the Spartan way was the slashing and smashing one-liner and ‘an aversion to longwindedness’.
“Here are some examples of the kinds of sayings I described earlier as brusque but not without elegance. Once an objectionable fellow hammered Demaratus [a king of Sparta] with a whole lot of inopportune questions, including ‘Who is the best of the Spartiates?’—to which Demaratus replied, ‘The one who is least like you.”
Short and sweet, cutting through the maquis of prolixity. Words that did what the Spartan sword achieved, to go straight for the kill.
“Spartan ways can even be judged by their light-hearted quips, since it was never their way to waste words or to say anything which did not somehow contain a thought that would repay further reflection.”
Plutarch makes a key point, namely that words, whether spoken or written, are precious resources forged in a high-energy smithy. Just like iron ore isn’t wasted to make tools nobody will use, so words won’t shoot out if they can’t fly on target.
Word economy was for the ancients a household item. Even the word economy comes from the Greek word for home, oikos, so the careful management of communication criss-crossed the Mediterranean like the trading ships of the people who brought us rhetoric, precision and a mindset of making the most of scarcity.
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