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Sparta (
Doric Greek Doric or Dorian ( grc, Δωρισμός, Dōrismós) was an Ancient Greek dialect. Its variants were spoken in the southern and eastern Peloponnese as well as in Sicily, Epirus, Southern Italy, Crete, Rhodes, some islands in the southern Aegean ...
: Σπάρτα, ''Spártā'';
Attic Greek Attic Greek is the Greek language, Greek dialect of the regions of ancient Greece, ancient region of Attica, including the ''polis'' of classical Athens, Athens. Often called classical Greek, it was the prestige (sociolinguistics), prestige dialec ...
:
Σπάρτη Sparta ( el, Σπάρτη, , ) is a town and municipality in Laconia Laconia or Lakonia ( el, Λακωνία, , ) is a historical and administrative region of Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a co ...
, ''Spártē'') was a prominent
city-state A city-state is an independent sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French ''souverain'', which is ultimately derived from the Latin word ''superānus'' ...
in
Laconia Laconia or Lakonia ( el, Λακωνία, , ) is a historical and administrative region of Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10. ...
, in
ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, antiquity ( AD 600). This era was ...
. In antiquity, the city-state was known as Lacedaemon (, ), while the name Sparta referred to its main settlement on the banks of the
Eurotas River The Eurotas (Greek: Εὐρώτας) or Evrotas (Modern Greek: Ευρώτας) is the main river of Laconia and one of the major rivers of the Peloponnese, in Greece. The river's springs are located just northwest of the border between Laconia and ...
in
Laconia Laconia or Lakonia ( el, Λακωνία, , ) is a historical and administrative region of Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10. ...
, in south-eastern
Peloponnese The Peloponnese (), Peloponnesia, or Peloponnesus (; el, Πελοπόννησος, Pelopónnēsos, ) is a peninsula and geographic regions of Greece, geographic region in southern Greece. It is connected to the central part of the country by the ...
. Around 650 BC, it rose to become the dominant
military land-power
military land-power
in ancient Greece. Given its military pre-eminence, Sparta was recognized as the leading force of the unified Greek military during the
Greco-Persian Wars The Greco-Persian Wars (also often called the Persian Wars) were a series of conflicts between the Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empi ...
, in rivalry with the rising naval power of
Athens Athens ( ; el, Αθήνα, Athína ; grc, Ἀθῆναι, Athênai (pl.) ) is the capital city, capital and List of cities in Greece, largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica (region), Attica region and is one of the List of oldest ...
. Sparta was the principal enemy of Athens during the
Peloponnesian War The Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC) was an ancient Greece, ancient Greek war fought between the Delian League, which was led by Classical Athens, Athens, and the Peloponnesian League, which was led by Sparta. Historians have traditionally di ...

Peloponnesian War
(between 431 and 404 BC), from which it emerged victorious after the
Battle of Aegospotami The Battle of Aegospotami ( ) was a naval confrontation that took place in 405 BC and was the last major battle of the Peloponnesian War The Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of t ...

Battle of Aegospotami
. The decisive
Battle of Leuctra The Battle of Leuctra ( grc-gre, Λεῦκτρα, ''Leûktra'') was a battle fought on 6 July 371 BC between the Boeotians led by the Thebes (Greece), Thebans, and the History of Sparta, Spartans along with their allies amidst the post-Corinthian W ...
in 371 BC ended the
Spartan hegemonyThe polis ''Polis'' (; grc-gre, :wikt:πόλις, πόλις ), plural ''poleis'' (, ) literally means "city" in Greek. It defined the administrative and religious city center, as distinct from the rest of the city. It can also signify a body ...
, although the city-state maintained its
political independence upright=1.0, Pedro surrounded by a crowd in Independence_of_Brazil">Brazil's_independence_on_September_7,_1822..html" ;"title="1822.html" ;"title="Independence of Brazil">Brazil's independence on September 7, 1822">Independence of Brazil">Brazi ...

political independence
until the
Roman conquest of Greece Greece in the Roman era describes the Roman conquest of Greece and the period of Greek history The history of Greece encompasses the history of the territory of the modern nation-state of Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially t ...
in 146 BC. After the division of the Roman Empire, Sparta underwent a long period of decline, especially in the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the 5th to the late 15th centuries, similarly to the Post-classical, Post-classical period of global history. It began with the fall of the Western Roma ...
, when many of its citizens moved to
Mystras Mystras or Mistras ( el, Μυστρᾶς/Μιστρᾶς), also known as Myzithras (Μυζηθρᾶς) in the ''Chronicle of the Morea The ''Chronicle of the Morea'' ( el, Το χρονικόν του Μορέως) is a long 14th-century history t ...

Mystras
. Modern Sparta is the capital of the southern Greek region of Laconia and a center for processing citrus and olives. Sparta was unique in
ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, antiquity ( AD 600). This era was ...
for its
social system In sociology, social system is the patterned network of relationships constituting a coherent whole that exist between individuals, groups, and institutions. It is the formal Social structure, structure of role and status that can form in a small, ...
and
constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political ...
, which were supposedly introduced by the semi-mythical legislator Lycurgus. His laws configured the Spartan
society A society is a group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be ...

society
to maximize military proficiency at all costs, focusing all
social institutions Institutions, according to Samuel P. Huntington, are "stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior". Institutions can refer to mechanisms which govern the behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British English; American and ...
on
military training Image:Yudh Abhyas 2013, 2nd Batallion, 5th Gurkha Rifles.jpg, 5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force) of Indian Army training with 82nd Airborne Division of United States Army Military education and training is a process which intends to establish and i ...
and physical development. The inhabitants of Sparta were stratified as
Spartiate A Spartiates (cf. its plural Spartiatae 'Spartans') spärshēˈātē(z)or Spartiate spärshēˌāt(from respectively the Latin and French forms corresponding to Classical- el, and pl. Σπᾰρτῐᾱ́ται) or ''Homoios'' (pl. ''Homoioi ...
s (citizens with full rights), mothakes (free non-Spartiate people descended from Spartans),
perioikoi The Perioeci or Períoikoi ( el, Περίοικος, ) were the members of a social class and population group of non-citizen inhabitants of Laconia and Messenia, the territory controlled by Sparta, concentrated in the coastal and highland areas. ...
(free non-Spartiates), and
helots The helots (; el, εἵλωτες, ''heílotes'') were a subjugated population that constituted a majority of the population of Laconia and Messenia Messenia or Messinia (; el, Μεσσηνία, ) is a regional units of Greece, regional ...
(state-owned enslaved non-Spartan locals). Spartiate men underwent the rigorous ''
agoge The ( grc-gre, ἀγωγή in Attic Greek Attic Greek is the Greek language, Greek dialect of the regions of ancient Greece, ancient region of Attica, including the ''polis'' of classical Athens, Athens. Often called classical Greek, it was the ...
'' training regimen, and Spartan
phalanx The phalanx ( grc, φάλαγξ; plural phalanxes or phalanges, , ) was a rectangular In Euclidean plane geometry, a rectangle is a quadrilateral A quadrilateral is a polygon in Euclidean geometry, Euclidean plane geometry with four Edge ...
brigades were widely considered to be among the best in battle. Spartan women enjoyed considerably more
rights Rights are legal Law is a system of rules created and law enforcement, enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', 90. with its precise definition a matter of longstandi ...
than elsewhere in
classical antiquity Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultural history between the 8th century BC and the 6th century AD centred on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ...
. Sparta was frequently a subject of fascination in its own day, as well as in
Western culture Western culture, also known as Western civilization, Occidental culture, or Western society, is the heritage Heritage may refer to: History and society * In history History (from Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired b ...
following the revival of classical learning. The admiration of Sparta is known as
LaconophiliaLaconophilia is love or admiration of Sparta and of the Spartan culture or constitution. The term derives from Laconia, the part of the Peloponnesus where the Spartans lived. Admirers of the Spartans typically praise their valour and success in war, ...
.
Bertrand Russell Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, ', "having learned much"; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the It ...
wrote:
Sparta had a double effect on Greek thought: through the reality, and through the myth.... The reality enabled the Spartans to defeat Athens in war; the myth influenced Plato's political theory, and that of countless subsequent writers.... ideals that it favors had a great part in framing the doctrines of Rousseau, Nietzsche, and National Socialism.


Names

The earliest attested term referring to Lacedaemon is the
Mycenaean Greek Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language Greek (modern , romanized: ''Elliniká'', Ancient Greek, ancient , ''Hellēnikḗ'') is an independent branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European family of lan ...
, ''ra-ke-da-mi-ni-jo'', "Lakedaimonian", written in
Linear B Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, the earliest attested form of Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or ...
syllabic script, the equivalent of the later
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
, ''Lakedaimonios'' (
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the ...

Latin
: ''Lacedaemonius''). The
ancient Greeks Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization A civilization (or civilisation) is any complex society that is characterized by urban development, social stratification, a form of government, and symbol A symbol i ...
used one of three words to refer to the Spartan city-state and its location. First, "Sparta" refers primarily to the main cluster of settlements in the valley of the
Eurotas River The Eurotas (Greek: Εὐρώτας) or Evrotas (Modern Greek: Ευρώτας) is the main river of Laconia and one of the major rivers of the Peloponnese, in Greece. The river's springs are located just northwest of the border between Laconia and ...
. The second word, "Lacedaemon" (), was often used as an adjective and is the name referenced in the works of
Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') was the presumed author of the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'', two epic poems that are the foundational works of ancient Greek literature. The ''Iliad'' is set during the Trojan War, the ten-year s ...

Homer
and the historians
Herodotus Herodotus ( ; grc, Ἡρόδοτος, Hēródotos, ; BC) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It ...
and
Thucydides Thucydides (; grc-gre, Θουκυδίδης ; BC) was an Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the appr ...
. The third term, "Laconice" (), referred to the immediate area around the town of Sparta, the plateau east of the Taygetos mountains, and sometimes to all the regions under direct Spartan control, including
Messenia Messenia or Messinia ( ; el, Μεσσηνία ) is a regional units of Greece, regional unit (''perifereiaki enotita'') in the southwestern part of the Peloponnese (region), Peloponnese Administrative regions of Greece, region, in Greece. Unt ...
. Herodotus seems to use "Lacedaemon" for the
Mycenaean Greek Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language Greek (modern , romanized: ''Elliniká'', Ancient Greek, ancient , ''Hellēnikḗ'') is an independent branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European family of lan ...
citadel at
Therapne Therapne ( grc, Θεράπνη) was a town in ancient Laconia Laconia or Lakonia ( el, Λακωνία, , ) is a historical and administrative region of Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country ...
, in contrast to the lower town of Sparta. This term could be used synonymously with Sparta, but typically it denoted the terrain in which the city was located. In Homer it is typically combined with epithets of the countryside: wide, lovely, shining and most often hollow and broken (full of ravines), suggesting the Eurotas Valley. "Sparta" on the other hand is described as "the country of lovely women", an epithet for people. The residents of Sparta were often called Lacedaemonians. This epithet utilized the plural of the adjective Lacedaemonius (Greek: ; Latin: ''Lacedaemonii'', but also ''Lacedaemones''). The ancients sometimes used a
back-formation In etymology, back-formation is the process of creating a new lexeme by removing actual or supposed affixes.Crystal, David. ''A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics, Sixth Edition'', Blackwell Publishers, 2008. The resulting neologism is called ...
, referring to the land of Lacedaemon as ''Lacedaemonian country''. As most words for "country" were feminine, the adjective was in the feminine: ''Lacedaemonia'' (, ''Lakedaimonia''). Eventually, the adjective came to be used alone. "Lacedaemonia" was not in general use during the classical period and before. It does occur in Greek as an equivalent of Laconia and Messenia during the Roman and early Byzantine periods, mostly in
ethnographers Ethnography (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 ...

ethnographers
and
lexica A lexicon is the vocabulary of a language or branch of knowledge (such as nautical or medical). In linguistics, a lexicon is a language's inventory of lexemes. The word ''lexicon'' derives from Koine Greek language, Greek word (), neuter of () ...

lexica
of place names. For example,
Hesychius of Alexandria Hesychius of Alexandria ) , name = Alexandria ( or ; ar, الإسكندرية ; arz, اسكندرية ; Coptic language, Coptic: Rakodī; el, Αλεξάνδρεια ''Alexandria'') is the List of cities a ...
's ''Lexicon'' (5th century AD) defines Agiadae as a "place in Lacedaemonia" named after Agis. The actual transition may be captured by
Isidore of Seville Isidore of Seville (; la, Isidorus Hispalensis; c. 560 – 4 April 636) was a Spanish scholar and cleric. For over three decades, he was Archbishop In many Christian denomination, Christian Denominations, an archbishop (, via Latin ...
's ''Etymologiae'' (7th century AD), an
etymological dictionary An etymological dictionary discusses the etymology Etymology () The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) – p. 633 "Etymology /ˌɛtɪˈmɒlədʒi/ the study of the class in words and the way their meanings have changed throughout time". ...
. Isidore relied heavily on
Orosius Paulus Orosius (; born 375/385 – 420 AD), less often Paul Orosius in English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, ...
' ''Historiarum Adversum Paganos'' (5th century AD) and
Eusebius of Caesarea Eusebius of Caesarea (; grc-gre, Εὐσέβιος τῆς Καισαρείας, ''Eusébios tés Kaisareías''; AD 260/265 – 339/340), also known as Eusebius Pamphili (from the grc-gre, Εὐσέβιος τοῦ Παμϕίλου), ...

Eusebius of Caesarea
's ''
ChroniconIn historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historians in developing history as an academic discipline, and by extension is any body of historical work on a particular subject. The historiography of a specific topic covers ho ...
'' (early 5th century AD), as did Orosius. The latter defines Sparta to be ''Lacedaemonia Civitas'', but Isidore defines Lacedaemonia as founded by Lacedaemon, son of Semele, which is consistent with Eusebius' explanation. There is a rare use, perhaps the earliest of "Lacedaemonia", in
Diodorus Siculus Diodorus Siculus (; grc-koi, Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης ''Diodoros Sikeliotes'';  1st century BC) or Diodorus of Sicily was an ancient Greece, ancient Greek historian. He is known for writing the monumental universal history ''Bi ...
' The Library of History, but probably with (‘’chōra’’, "country") suppressed. Lakedaimona was until 2006 the name of a
province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are gen ...
in the modern Greek
prefecture A prefecture (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of t ...

prefecture
of
Laconia Laconia or Lakonia ( el, Λακωνία, , ) is a historical and administrative region of Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10. ...
.


Geography

Sparta is located in the region of Laconia, in the south-eastern
Peloponnese The Peloponnese (), Peloponnesia, or Peloponnesus (; el, Πελοπόννησος, Pelopónnēsos, ) is a peninsula and geographic regions of Greece, geographic region in southern Greece. It is connected to the central part of the country by the ...
. Ancient Sparta was built on the banks of the
Eurotas River The Eurotas (Greek: Εὐρώτας) or Evrotas (Modern Greek: Ευρώτας) is the main river of Laconia and one of the major rivers of the Peloponnese, in Greece. The river's springs are located just northwest of the border between Laconia and ...
, the largest river of Laconia, which provided it with a source of fresh water. The valley of the Eurotas is a natural fortress, bounded to the west by Mt. Taygetus (2,407 m) and to the east by Mt. Parnon (1,935 m). To the north, Laconia is separated from
Arcadia Arcadia may refer to: Places Australia * Arcadia, New South Wales, a suburb of Sydney * Arcadia, Queensland * Arcadia, Victoria Greece * Arcadia (region) Arcadia ( el, Ἀρκαδία) is a region in the central Peloponnese. It takes its name ...
by hilly uplands reaching 1000 m in altitude. These natural defenses worked to Sparta's advantage and protected it from sacking and
invasion An invasion is a military offensive in which large numbers of combatants of one geopolitical entity aggressively enter territory owned by another such entity, generally with the objective of either conquering; liberating or re-establishing ...
. Though landlocked, Sparta had a vassal harbor,
Gytheio Gytheio ( el, Γύθειο, ) or Gythio, also the ancient Gythium or Gytheion ( grc, Γύθειον), is a town on the eastern shore of the Mani Peninsula, and a former municipality in Laconia, Peloponnese (region), Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2 ...
, on the
Laconian GulfThe Laconian Gulf ( el, Λακωνικός Κόλπος, translit=Lakonikos Kolpos), is a gulf in the south-eastern Peloponnese The Peloponnese () or Peloponnesus (; el, Πελοπόννησος, Peloponnesos, ) is a peninsula A peninsula ( l ...
.


Mythology

Lacedaemon Sparta (Doric Greek: Σπάρτα, ''Spártā''; Attic Greek: wikt:Σπάρτη, Σπάρτη, ''Spártē'') was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece. In antiquity, the city-state was known as Lacedaemon (, ), while the name Sparta refe ...
(Greek: ) was a
mythical Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture or group. These include oral traditions such as Narrative, tales, p ...
king of Laconia.. The son of
Zeus Zeus or , , ; grc, Δῐός, ''Diós'', label=genitive In grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek ''grammatikḗ'') of a natural language is its set of structure, structural constraints on speakers' or writers' compos ...

Zeus
by the nymph
Taygete In Classical Greek mythology, Taygete el, Ταϋγέτη, , ) was a nymph, one of the Pleiades (mythology), Pleiades according to the ''Bibliotheca (Pseudo-Apollodorus), Bibliotheca'' (3.10.1) and a companion of Artemis, in her archaic role as ''p ...
, he married
Sparta Sparta (Doric Greek Doric, or Dorian ( grc, Δωρισμός, Dōrismós) was an Ancient Greek dialect. Its variants were spoken in the southern and eastern Peloponnese as well as in Sicily, Epirus, Southern Italy, Crete, Rhodes, some ...
, the daughter of
Eurotas In Greek mythology, Eurotas (; Ancient Greek: Εὐρώτας) was a king of Laconia. Family Eurotas was the son of King Myles and grandson of Lelex, eponymous ancestor of the Leleges. The ''Bibliotheca (Pseudo-Apollodorus), Bibliotheca'' give ...
, by whom he became the father of
AmyclasIn Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature of the ...
,
Eurydice Eurydice (; Ancient Greek: Εὐρυδίκη 'wide justice') was a character in Greek mythology and the Auloniad wife of Orpheus, who tried to bring her back from the dead with his enchanting music. Etymology Several meanings for the name ' ...
, and Asine. As king, he named his country after himself and the city after his wife. He was believed to have built the sanctuary of the
Charites In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature ...
, which stood between Sparta and
Amyclae Amyclae or Amyklai ( grc, Ἀμύκλαι) was a city of ancient Laconia, situated on the right or western bank of the Eurotas (river), Eurotas, 20 stadion (unit), stadia south of Sparta, in a district remarkable for the abundance of its trees and ...
, and to have given to those divinities the names of Cleta and Phaenna. A
shrine A shrine ( la, scrinium "case or chest for books or papers"; Old French: ''escrin'' "box or case") is a sacred or holy sacred space, space dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor worship, ancestor, hero, martyr, saint, Daemon (mythology), daemo ...

shrine
was erected to him in the neighborhood of
Therapne Therapne ( grc, Θεράπνη) was a town in ancient Laconia Laconia or Lakonia ( el, Λακωνία, , ) is a historical and administrative region of Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country ...
.
Tyrtaeus Tyrtaeus (; grc-gre, Τυρταῖος ''Tyrtaios''; fl. mid-7th century BCE) was a Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country loc ...
, an archaic era Spartan writer, is the earliest source to connect the origin myth of the Spartans to the lineage of the hero
Heracles Heracles ( ; grc-gre, Ἡρακλῆς, , glory/fame of Hera Hera (; grc-gre, Ἥρᾱ, ''Hērā''; , ''Hērē'' in Ionic and Homeric Greek) is the goddess of women, marriage, family and childbirth in ancient Greek religion and ...

Heracles
; later authors, such as
Diodorus Siculus Diodorus Siculus (; grc-koi, Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης ''Diodoros Sikeliotes'';  1st century BC) or Diodorus of Sicily was an ancient Greece, ancient Greek historian. He is known for writing the monumental universal history ''Bi ...
, Herodotus, and Apollodorus, also made mention of Spartans understanding themselves to be descendants of Heracles.


Archaeology of the classical period

Thucydides Thucydides (; grc-gre, Θουκυδίδης ; BC) was an Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the appr ...
wrote:
Suppose the city of Sparta to be deserted, and nothing left but the temples and the ground-plan, distant ages would be very unwilling to believe that the power of the Lacedaemonians was at all equal to their fame. Their city is not built continuously, and has no splendid temples or other edifices; it rather resembles a group of villages, like the ancient towns of Hellas, and would therefore make a poor show.
Until the early 20th century, the chief ancient buildings at Sparta were the
theatre Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usually actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place, often a stage. The performe ...
, of which, however, little showed above ground except portions of the
retaining wall Retaining walls are relatively rigid walls used for supporting soil laterally so that it can be retained at different levels on the two sides. Retaining walls are structures designed to restrain soil to a slope that it would not naturally keep to (t ...

retaining wall
s; the so-called Tomb of
Leonidas Leonidas I (; Doric , '; Ionic and Attic Greek Attic Greek is the Greek language, Greek dialect of the regions of ancient Greece, ancient region of Attica, including the ''polis'' of classical Athens, Athens. Often called classical Greek, it ...

Leonidas
, a quadrangular building, perhaps a temple, constructed of immense blocks of stone and containing two chambers; the foundation of an ancient bridge over the
Eurotas In Greek mythology, Eurotas (; Ancient Greek: Εὐρώτας) was a king of Laconia. Family Eurotas was the son of King Myles and grandson of Lelex, eponymous ancestor of the Leleges. The ''Bibliotheca (Pseudo-Apollodorus), Bibliotheca'' give ...

Eurotas
; the ruins of a circular structure; some remains of late Roman
fortification A fortification is a military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically officially authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, w ...

fortification
s; several brick buildings and The remaining archaeological wealth consisted of inscriptions, sculptures, and other objects collected in the local museum, founded by Stamatakis in 1872 and enlarged in 1907. Partial excavation of the round building was undertaken in 1892 and 1893 by the . The structure has been since found to be a semicircular retaining wall of Hellenic origin that was partly restored during the Roman period. In 1904, the
British School at Athens , image = Image-Bsa athens library.jpg , image_size = 300px , image_upright = , alt = , caption = The library of the BSA , latin_name = , motto = , founder = T ...
began a thorough exploration of
Laconia Laconia or Lakonia ( el, Λακωνία, , ) is a historical and administrative region of Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10. ...
, and in the following year excavations were made at Thalamae, Geronthrae, and Angelona near
Monemvasia Monemvasia ( el, Μονεμβασία) is a town and a municipality in Laconia Laconia or Lakonia ( el, Λακωνία, , ) is a historical and administrative region of Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republ ...

Monemvasia
. In 1906, excavations began in Sparta itself. A "small circus" (as described by ) proved to be a theatre-like building constructed soon after 200 AD around the altar and in front of the Temple of Artemis Orthia. It is believed that musical and gymnastic contests took place here, as well as the famous flogging ordeal administered to Spartan boys ('' diamastigosis''). The temple, which can be dated to the 2nd century BC, rests on the foundation of an older temple of the 6th century, and close beside it were found the remains of a yet earlier temple, dating from the 9th or even the 10th century. The votive offerings in clay, amber, bronze, ivory and lead dating from the 9th to the 4th centuries BC, which were found in great profusion within the precinct range, supply invaluable information about early Spartan art. In 1907, the location of the sanctuary of Athena "of the Brazen House" (Χαλκίοικος, Chalkioikos) was determined to be on the acropolis immediately above the theatre. Though the actual temple is almost completely destroyed, the site has produced the longest extant archaic inscription in Laconia, numerous bronze nails and plates, and a considerable number of votive offerings. The city-wall, built in successive stages from the 4th to the 2nd century, was traced for a great part of its circuit, which measured 48 stades or nearly (Polyb. 1X. 21). The late Roman wall enclosing the acropolis, part of which probably dates from the years following the Gothic raid of 262 AD, was also investigated. Besides the actual buildings discovered, a number of points were situated and mapped in a general study of Spartan topography, based upon the description of Pausanias (geographer), Pausanias. In terms of domestic archaeology, little is known about Spartan houses and villages before the Archaic period, but the best evidence comes from excavations at Nichoria in
Messenia Messenia or Messinia ( ; el, Μεσσηνία ) is a regional units of Greece, regional unit (''perifereiaki enotita'') in the southwestern part of the Peloponnese (region), Peloponnese Administrative regions of Greece, region, in Greece. Unt ...
where postholes have been found. These villages were open and consisted of small and simple houses built with stone foundations and clay walls.


Menelaion

The Menelaion is a shrine associated with Menelaus, located east of Sparta, by the river Eurotas, on the hill Taygetus, Profitis Ilias (Geographic coordinate system, Coordinates: ). Built around the early 8th century BC, the Spartans believed it had been the former residence of Menelaus. In 1970, the British School in Athens started excavations around the Menelaion in an attempt to locate Mycenaean remains in the area. Among other findings, they uncovered the remains of two Mycenaean mansions and found the first offerings dedicated to Helen of Troy, Helen and Menelaus. These mansions were destroyed by earthquake and fire, and archaeologists consider them the possible palace of Menelaus himself. Archaeological excavation, Excavations made from the early 1990s to the present suggest that the area around the Menelaion in the southern part of the Eurotas valley seems to have been the center of Mycenaean Greece, Mycenaean Laconia. The Mycenaean settlement was roughly triangular in shape, with its apex pointed towards the north. Its area was approximately equal to that of the "newer" Sparta, but denudation has wreaked havoc with its buildings and nothing is left of its original structures save for ruined foundations and broken Glossary of archaeology, potsherds.


History


Prehistory, "dark age" and archaic period

The prehistory of Sparta is difficult to reconstruct because the literary evidence was written far later than the events it describes and is distorted by oral tradition.Herodot, Book I, 56.3 The earliest certain evidence of human settlement in the region of Sparta consists of pottery dating from the Middle Neolithic period, found in the vicinity of Kouphovouno some two kilometres () south-southwest of Sparta. This civilization seems to have fallen into decline by the late Bronze Age, when, according to Herodotus, Macedonian tribes from the north (called Dorians by those they conquered) marched into the Peloponnese and, subjugating the local tribes, settled there. The Dorians seem to have set about expanding the frontiers of Spartan territory almost before they had established their own state. They fought against the Argive Dorians to the east and southeast, and also the Arcadia (ancient region), Arcadian Achaeans to the northwest. The evidence suggests that Sparta, relatively inaccessible because of the topography of the Taygetan plain, was secure from early on: it was never fortified. Nothing distinctive in the archaeology of the Eurotas River Valley identifies the Dorians or the Dorian Spartan state. The prehistory of the Neolithic, the Bronze Age and the Dark Age (the Early Iron Age) at this moment must be treated apart from the stream of Dorian Spartan history. The legendary period of Spartan history is believed to fall into the Dark Age. It treats the mythic heroes such as the Heraclids and the Perseides, Perseids, offering a view of the occupation of the Peloponnesus that contains both fantastic and possibly historical elements. The subsequent proto-historic period, combining both legend and historical fragments, offers the first credible history. Between the 8th and 7th centuries BC the Spartans experienced a period of lawlessness and civil strife, later attested by both Herodotus and Thucydides. As a result, they carried out a series of political and social reforms of their own society which they later attributed to a semi-mythical lawgiver, Lycurgus. Several writers throughout antiquity, including Herodotus, Xenophon, and Plutarch have attempted to explain Spartan exceptionalism as a result of the so-called Lycurgan Reform
Xenophon, Constitution of the Lacedaimonians, chapter 1


Classical Sparta

In the Second Messenian War, Sparta established itself as a local power in the Peloponnesus and the rest of Greece. During the following centuries, Sparta's reputation as a land-fighting force was unequalled. At its peak around 500 BC, Sparta had some 20,000–35,000 citizens, plus numerous helots and perioikoi. The likely total of 40,000–50,000 made Sparta one of the larger Greek city-states; however, according to Thucydides, the population of Athens in 431 BC was 360,000–610,000, making it much larger. In 480 BC, a small force led by King Leonidas I, Leonidas (about 300 full Spartiates, 700 Thespians, and 400 Thebans, although these numbers were lessened by earlier casualties) made a legendary last stand at the Battle of Thermopylae against the massive Persian army, led by Xerxes I, Xerxes. The Spartans received advance warning of the Persian invasion from their deposed king Demaratus, which prompted them to consult the Delphic oracle. According to Herodotus, the Pythia proclaimed that either one of the kings of Sparta had to die or Sparta would be destroyed. This prophecy was fulfilled after king Leonidas died in the battle. The superior weaponry, strategy, and bronze armour of the Greek hoplites and their Phalanx formation, phalanx fighting formation again proved their worth one year later when Sparta assembled its full strength and led a Greek alliance against the Persians at the Battle of Plataea. The decisive Greek victory at Plataea put an end to the Greco-Persian War along with Persian ambitions to expand into Europe. Even though this war was won by a pan-Greek army, credit was given to Sparta, who besides providing the leading forces at Thermopylae and Plataea, had been the de facto leader of the entire Greek expedition. In later Classical times, Sparta along with Athens, Thebes, Greece, Thebes, and Persia were the main powers fighting for supremacy in the northeastern Mediterranean. In the course of the
Peloponnesian War The Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC) was an ancient Greece, ancient Greek war fought between the Delian League, which was led by Classical Athens, Athens, and the Peloponnesian League, which was led by Sparta. Historians have traditionally di ...

Peloponnesian War
, Sparta, a traditional land power, acquired a navy which managed to overpower the previously dominant flotilla of Athens, ending the Athenian Empire. At the peak of its power in the early 4th century BC, Sparta had subdued many of the main Greek states and even invaded the Persian provinces in Anatolia (modern day Turkey), a period known as the
Spartan hegemonyThe polis ''Polis'' (; grc-gre, :wikt:πόλις, πόλις ), plural ''poleis'' (, ) literally means "city" in Greek. It defined the administrative and religious city center, as distinct from the rest of the city. It can also signify a body ...
. During the Corinthian War, Sparta faced a coalition of the leading Greek states: Thebes, Greece, Thebes, Athens, Ancient Corinth, Corinth, and Argos, Peloponnese, Argos. The alliance was initially backed by Persia, which feared further Spartan expansion into Asia. Sparta achieved a series of land victories, but many of her ships were destroyed at the Battle of Cnidus by a Greek-Phoenician mercenary fleet that Persia had provided to Athens. The event severely damaged Sparta's naval power but did not end its aspirations of invading further into Persia, until Conon the Athenian ravaged the Spartan coastline and provoked the old Spartan fear of a helot revolt."The Oxford Illustrated History of Greece and the Hellenistic World" p. 141, John Boardman, Jasper Griffin, Oswyn Murray After a few more years of fighting, in 387 BC the Peace of Antalcidas was established, according to which all Greek cities of Ionia would return to Persian control, and Persia's Asian border would be free of the Spartan threat. The effects of the war were to reaffirm Persia's ability to interfere successfully in Greek politics and to affirm Sparta's weakened hegemonic position in the Greek political system. Sparta entered its long-term decline after a severe military defeat to Epaminondas of Thebes at the
Battle of Leuctra The Battle of Leuctra ( grc-gre, Λεῦκτρα, ''Leûktra'') was a battle fought on 6 July 371 BC between the Boeotians led by the Thebes (Greece), Thebans, and the History of Sparta, Spartans along with their allies amidst the post-Corinthian W ...
. This was the first time that a full strength Spartan Army, Spartan army lost a land battle. As Spartan citizenship was inherited by blood, Sparta increasingly faced a helot population that vastly outnumbered its citizens. The alarming decline of Spartan citizens was commented on by Aristotle.


Hellenistic and Roman Sparta

Sparta never fully recovered from its losses at Leuctra in 371 BC and the subsequent Helots#Helot revolts, helot revolts. In 338, Philip II of Macedon, Philip II invaded and devastated much of Laconia, turning the Spartans out, though he did not seize Sparta itself. Even during its decline, Sparta never forgot its claim to be the "defender of Hellenism" and its Laconic phrase, Laconic wit. An anecdote has it that when Philip II sent a message to Sparta saying "If I invade Laconia, I shall turn you out.", the Spartans responded with the single, terse reply: , "if". When Philip created the League of Corinth on the pretext of unifying Greece against Persia, the Spartans chose not to join, since they had no interest in joining a pan-Greek expedition unless it were under Spartan leadership. Thus, upon defeating the Persians at the Battle of the Granicus, Alexander the Great sent to Athens 300 suits of Persian armour with the following inscription: "Alexander, son of Philip, and all the Greeks except the Spartans, give these offerings taken from the foreigners who live in Asia". Sparta continued to be one of the Peloponesian powers until its eventual loss of independence in 192 BC. During Alexander's campaigns in the east, the Spartan king Agis III sent a force to Crete in 333 BC to secure the island for the Persian interest. Agis next took command of allied Greek forces against Macedon, gaining early successes, before laying siege to Megalopolis, Greece, Megalopolis in 331 BC. A large Ancient Macedonian army, Macedonian army under general Antipater marched to its relief and defeated the Spartan-led force in a pitched battle. More than 5,300 of the Spartans and their allies were killed in battle, and 3,500 of Antipater's troops. Agis, now wounded and unable to stand, ordered his men to leave him behind to face the advancing Macedonian army so that he could buy them time to retreat. On his knees, the Spartan king slew several enemy soldiers before being finally killed by a javelin. Alexander was merciful, and he only forced the Spartans to join the League of Corinth, which they had previously refused. During the Punic Wars, Sparta was an ally of the Roman Republic. Spartan political independence was put to an end when it was eventually forced into the Achaean League after its defeat in the decisive War against Nabis, Laconian War by a coalition of other Greek city-states and Rome, and the resultant overthrow of its final king Nabis, in 192 BC. Sparta played no active part in the Achaean War in 146 BC when the Achaean League was defeated by the Roman general Lucius Mummius Achaicus, Lucius Mummius. Subsequently, Sparta became a Free city (classical antiquity), free city under Roman rule, some of the institutions of Lycurgus were restored, and the city became a tourist attraction for the Roman elite who came to observe exotic Spartan customs. In 214 AD, Roman emperor Caracalla, in his preparation for Parthian war of Caracalla, his campaign against Parthian Empire, Parthia, recruited a 500-man Spartan Cohort (military unit), cohort (''Lochos, lokhos''). Herodian described this unit as a ''phalanx'', implying it fought like the old Spartans as hoplites, or even as a Macedonian phalanx. Despite this, a gravestone of a fallen legionary named Marcus Aurelius Alexys shows him lightly armed, with a Pileus (hat), pilos-like cap and a wooden club. The unit was presumably discharged in 217 after Caracalla was assassinated. An exchange of letters in the deutero-canonical First Book of Maccabees expresses a Jews, Jewish claim to kinship with the Spartans: The letters are reproduced in a variant form by Josephus. Jewish historian Uriel Rappaport notes that the relationship between the Jews and the Spartans expressed in this correspondence has "intrigued many scholars, and various explanations have been suggested for the problems raised ... including the historicity of the Jewish leader and High Priest of Israel, high priest Jonathan Apphus, Jonathan's letter to the Spartans, the authenticity of the letter of Arius to Onias, cited in Jonathan's letter, and the supposed 'brotherhood' of the Jews and the Spartans." Rappaport is clear that "the authenticity of [the reply] letter of Arius is based on even less firm foundations than the letter of Jonathan".


Postclassical and modern Sparta

In 396 AD, Sparta was sacked by Visigoths under Alaric I who sold inhabitants into slavery. According to Byzantine sources, Maniots, some parts of the Laconian region remained Paganism, pagan until well into the 10th century. Doric Greek, Doric-speaking populations survive today in Tsakonia. In the Middle Ages, the political and cultural center of Laconia shifted to the nearby settlement of
Mystras Mystras or Mistras ( el, Μυστρᾶς/Μιστρᾶς), also known as Myzithras (Μυζηθρᾶς) in the ''Chronicle of the Morea The ''Chronicle of the Morea'' ( el, Το χρονικόν του Μορέως) is a long 14th-century history t ...

Mystras
, and Sparta fell further in even local importance. Modern Sparta, Laconia, Sparta was re-founded in 1834, by a decree of King Otto of Greece.


Structure of Classical Spartan society


Constitution

Sparta was an oligarchy. The state was ruled by two Diarchy, hereditary kings of the List of Kings of Sparta, Agiad and Eurypontid family, families, both supposedly descendants of
Heracles Heracles ( ; grc-gre, Ἡρακλῆς, , glory/fame of Hera Hera (; grc-gre, Ἥρᾱ, ''Hērā''; , ''Hērē'' in Ionic and Homeric Greek) is the goddess of women, marriage, family and childbirth in ancient Greek religion and ...

Heracles
and equal in authority, so that one could not act against the power and political enactments of his colleague. The duties of the kings were primarily religious, judicial, and military. As chief priests of the state, they maintained communication with the Delphian sanctuary, whose pronouncements exercised great authority in Spartan politics. In the time of Herodotus c. 450 BC, their judicial functions had been restricted to cases dealing with heiresses, adoptions and the public roads. Aristotle describes the kingship at Sparta as "a kind of unlimited and perpetual generalship" (Pol. iii. 1285a), while Isocrates refers to the Spartans as "subject to an oligarchy at home, to a kingship on campaign" (iii. 24). Civil and criminal cases were decided by a group of officials known as the ephors, as well as a council of Elder (administrative title), elders known as the Gerousia. The Gerousia consisted of 28 elders over the age of 60, elected for life and usually part of the royal households, and the two kings. High state decisions were discussed by this council, who could then propose policies to the ''damos'', the collective body of Spartan citizenry, who would Great Rhetra, select one of the alternatives by vote. Royal prerogatives were curtailed over time. From the period of the Persian wars, the king lost the right to declaration of war, declare war and was accompanied in the field by two ephors. He was supplanted by the ephors also in the control of foreign policy. Over time, the kings became mere figureheads except in their capacity as generals. Political power was transferred to the ephors and Gerousia. An assembly of citizens called the Apella was responsible for electing men to the Gerousia for life.


Citizenship

The Spartan education process known as the ''
agoge The ( grc-gre, ἀγωγή in Attic Greek Attic Greek is the Greek language, Greek dialect of the regions of ancient Greece, ancient region of Attica, including the ''polis'' of classical Athens, Athens. Often called classical Greek, it was the ...
'' was essential for full citizenship. However, usually the only boys eligible for the ''agoge'' were Spartiates, those who could trace their ancestry to the original inhabitants of the city. There were two exceptions. ''trophimoi'' or "foster sons" were foreign students invited to study. The Athenian general Xenophon, for example, sent his two sons to Sparta as trophimoi. Also, the son of a helot could be enrolled as a ''syntrophos'' if a Spartiate formally adopted him and paid his way; if he did exceptionally well in training, he might be sponsored to become a Spartiate. Spartans who could not afford to pay the expenses of the ''agoge'' could lose their citizenship. These laws meant that Sparta could not readily replace citizens lost in battle or otherwise, which eventually proved near fatal as citizens became greatly outnumbered by non-citizens, and even more dangerously by helots.


Non citizens

The other classes were the perioeci, perioikoi, free inhabitants who were non-citizens, and the
helots The helots (; el, εἵλωτες, ''heílotes'') were a subjugated population that constituted a majority of the population of Laconia and Messenia Messenia or Messinia (; el, Μεσσηνία, ) is a regional units of Greece, regional ...
,''Ancient Greece'' By Sarah B. Pomeroy, Stanley M. Burstein, Walter Donlan, Jennifer Tolbert Roberts state-owned serfs. Descendants of non-Spartan citizens were forbidden the ''agoge''.


Helots

The Spartans were a minority of the Lakonian population. The largest class of inhabitants were the helots (in Ancient Greek language, Classical Greek / ''Heílôtes''). The helots were originally free Greeks from the areas of
Messenia Messenia or Messinia ( ; el, Μεσσηνία ) is a regional units of Greece, regional unit (''perifereiaki enotita'') in the southwestern part of the Peloponnese (region), Peloponnese Administrative regions of Greece, region, in Greece. Unt ...
and Lakonia whom the Spartans had defeated in battle and subsequently enslaved. In contrast to populations conquered by other Greek cities (e.g. the Athenian treatment of Melos), the male population was not exterminated and the women and children turned into chattel slaves. Instead, the helots were given a subordinate position in society more comparable to serfs in medieval Europe than chattel slaves in the rest of Greece. The Spartan helots were not only agricultural workers, but were also household servants, both male and female would be assigned domestic duties, such as wool-working. However, the helots were not the private property of individual Spartan citizens, regardless of their household duties, and were instead owned by the state through the ''kleros'' system. Helots did not have voting or political rights. The Spartan poet Tyrtaeus, Tyrtaios refers to Helots being allowed to marry and retaining 50% of the fruits of their labor. They also seem to have been allowed to practice religious rites and, according to Thucydides, own a limited amount of personal property. Initially, helots couldn't be freed but during the middle Hellenistic period, some 6,000 helots accumulated enough wealth to buy their freedom, for example, in 227 BC. In other Greek city-states, free citizens were part-time soldiers who, when not at war, carried on other trades. Since Spartan men were full-time soldiers, they were not available to carry out manual labour. The helots were used as unskilled serfs, tilling Spartan land. Helot women were often used as wet nurses. Helots also travelled with the Spartan army as non-combatant serfs. At the last stand of the Battle of Thermopylae, the Greek dead included not just the legendary three hundred Spartan soldiers but also several hundred Thespiae, Thespian and Thebes, Greece, Theban troops and a number of helots. There was at least one helot revolt (c. 465–460 BC) that led to prolonged conflict. By the tenth year of this war the Spartans and Messenians had reached an agreement in which Messenian rebels were allowed to leave the Peloponnese. They were given safe passage under the terms that they would be re-enslaved if they tried to return. This agreement ended the most serious incursion into Spartan territory since their expansion in the seventh and eight centuries BC. Thucydides remarked that "Spartan policy is always mainly governed by the necessity of taking precautions against the helots." On the other hand, the Spartans trusted their helots enough in 479 BC to take a force of 35,000 with them to Plataea, something they could not have risked if they feared the helots would attack them or run away. Slave revolts occurred elsewhere in the Greek world, and in 413 BC 20,000 Athenian slaves ran away to join the Spartan forces occupying Attica. What made Sparta's relations with her slave population unique was that the helots, precisely because they enjoyed privileges such as family and property, retained their identity as a conquered people (the Messenians) and also had effective kinship groups that could be used to organize rebellion. As the Spartiate population declined and the helot population continued to grow, the imbalance of power caused increasing tension. According to Myron of Priene of the middle 3rd century BC: Plutarch also states that Spartans treated the helots "harshly and cruelly": they compelled them to drink pure wine (which was considered dangerous – Diet of Ancient Greece#Wine, wine usually being cut with water) "...and to lead them in that condition into their public halls, that the children might see what a sight a drunken man is; they made them to dance low dances, and sing ridiculous songs..." during ''syssitia'' (obligatory banquets). Each year when the Ephors took office, they ritually declared war on the helots, allowing Spartans to kill them without risk of ritual pollution. This fight seems to have been carried out by ''kryptai'' (sing. κρύπτης ''kryptēs''), graduates of the ''agoge'' who took part in the mysterious institution known as the ''Crypteia, Krypteia''. Thucydides states:
The helots were invited by a proclamation to pick out those of their number who claimed to have most distinguished themselves against the enemy, in order that they might receive their freedom; the object being to test them, as it was thought that the first to claim their freedom would be the most high spirited and the most apt to rebel. As many as two thousand were selected accordingly, who crowned themselves and went round the temples, rejoicing in their new freedom. The Spartans, however, soon afterwards did away with them, and no one ever knew how each of them perished.


Perioikoi

The Perioikoi came from similar origins as the helots but occupied a significantly different position in Spartan society. Although they did not enjoy full citizen-rights, they were free and not subjected to the same restrictions as the helots. The exact nature of their subjection to the Spartans is not clear, but they seem to have served partly as a kind of military reserve, partly as skilled craftsmen and partly as agents of foreign trade. Perioikoic hoplites served increasingly with the Spartan army, explicitly at the Battle of Plataea, and although they may also have fulfilled functions such as the manufacture and repair of armour and weapons, they were increasingly integrated into the combat units of the Spartan army as the Spartiate population declined.


Economy

Full citizen Spartiates were barred by law from trade or manufacture, which consequently rested in the hands of the Perioikoi. This lucrative monopoly, in a fertile territory with a good harbors, ensured the loyalty of the perioikoi. Despite the prohibition on menial labor or trade, there is evidence of Spartan sculptors, and Spartans were certainly poets, magistrates, ambassadors, and governors as well as soldiers. Allegedly, Spartans were prohibited from possessing gold and silver coins, and according to legend Spartan currency consisted of iron bars to discourage hoarding. It was not until the 260s or 250s BC that Sparta began to mint its own coins. Though the conspicuous display of wealth appears to have been discouraged, this did not preclude the production of very fine decorated bronze, ivory and wooden works of art as well as exquisite jewellery, attested in archaeology. Allegedly as part of the Lycurgan Reforms in the mid-8th century BC, a massive Land reform in Sparta, land reform had divided property into 9,000 equal portions. Each citizen received one estate, a ''kleros'', which was expected to provide his living. The land was worked by helots who retained half the yield. From the other half, the Spartiate was expected to pay his mess (''syssitia'') fees, and the ''agoge'' fees for his children. However, we know nothing of matters of wealth such as how land was bought, sold, and inherited, or whether daughters received dowries. However, from early on there were marked differences of wealth within the state, and these became more serious after the law of Epitadeus some time after the
Peloponnesian War The Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC) was an ancient Greece, ancient Greek war fought between the Delian League, which was led by Classical Athens, Athens, and the Peloponnesian League, which was led by Sparta. Historians have traditionally di ...

Peloponnesian War
, which removed the legal prohibition on the gift or bequest of land. By the mid-5th century, land had become concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite, and the notion that all Spartan citizens were equals had become an empty pretence. By Aristotle's day (384–322 BC) citizenship had been reduced from 9,000 to less than 1,000, then further decreased to 700 at the accession of Agis IV in 244 BC. Attempts were made to remedy this by imposing legal penalties upon bachelors, but this could not reverse the trend.


Life in Classical Sparta


Birth and death

Sparta was above all a militarist state, and emphasis on military fitness began virtually at birth. Shortly after birth, a mother would bathe her child in wine to see whether the child was strong. If the child survived it was brought before the Gerousia by the child's father. The Gerousia then decided whether it was to be reared or not. It is commonly stated that if they considered it "puny and deformed", the baby was thrown into a chasm on Taygetus, Mount Taygetos known euphemistically as the ''Apothetae'' (Gr., ''ἀποθέται'', "Deposits"). This was, in effect, a primitive form of eugenics. Sparta is often viewed as being unique in this regard, however, anthropologist Laila Williamson notes that "Infanticide has been practiced on every continent and by people on every level of cultural complexity, from hunter gatherers to high civilizations. Rather than being an exception, then, it has been the rule." There is controversy about the matter in Sparta, since excavations in the chasm only uncovered adult remains, likely belonging to criminals. Spartan burial customs changed over time. The Archaic Spartan poet
Tyrtaeus Tyrtaeus (; grc-gre, Τυρταῖος ''Tyrtaios''; fl. mid-7th century BCE) was a Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country loc ...
spoke of the Spartan war-dead as follows:
Never do his [the war-dead's] name and good fame perish, But even though he is beneath the earth he is immortal, Young and old alike mourn him, All the city is distressed by the painful loss, and his tomb and children are pointed out among the people, and his children’s children and his line after them.
When Spartans died, marked headstones would only be granted to soldiers who died in combat during a victorious campaign or women who died either in service of a divine office or in childbirth. These headstones likely acted as memorials, rather than as grave markers. Evidence of Spartan burials is provided by the Tomb of the Lacedaimonians in Athens. Excavations at the cemetery of classical Sparta, uncovered ritually pierced Kantharos, kantharoid-like ceramic vessels, the ritual slaughter of horses, and specific burial enclosures alongside individual 'plots'. Some of the graves were reused over time.Christesen, P. (2018). The typology and topography of Spartan burials from the Protogeometric to the Hellenistic period: rethinking Spartan exceptionalism and the ostensible cessation of adult intramural burials in the Greek world. ''Annual of the British School at Athens'', ''113'', 307-363. In the Hellenistic Period, grander, two-storey monumental tombs are found at Sparta. Ten of these have been found for this period.


Education

When male Spartans began military training at age seven, they would enter the ''
agoge The ( grc-gre, ἀγωγή in Attic Greek Attic Greek is the Greek language, Greek dialect of the regions of ancient Greece, ancient region of Attica, including the ''polis'' of classical Athens, Athens. Often called classical Greek, it was the ...
'' system. The ''agoge'' was designed to encourage discipline and physical toughness and to emphasize the importance of the Spartan state. Boys lived in communal messes and, according to Xenophon, whose sons attended the ''agoge'', the boys were fed "just the right amount for them never to become sluggish through being too full, while also giving them a taste of what it is not to have enough."Xenophon, Spartan Society, 2 In addition, they were trained to survive in times of privation, even if it meant stealing. Besides physical and weapons training, boys studied reading, writing, music and dancing. Special punishments were imposed if boys failed to answer questions sufficiently "Laconic phrase, laconically" (i.e. briefly and wittily). Spartan boys were expected to take an older male mentor, usually an unmarried young man. According to some sources, the older man was expected to function as a kind of substitute father and role model to his junior partner; however, others believe it was reasonably certain that they had sexual relations (the exact nature of Pederasty in ancient Greece#Sparta, Spartan pederasty is not entirely clear). Xenophon, an admirer of the Spartan educational system whose sons attended the ''agoge'', explicitly denies the sexual nature of the relationship. Some Spartan youth apparently became members of an irregular unit known as the ''Krypteia''. The immediate objective of this unit was to seek out and kill vulnerable helot Laconians as part of the larger program of terrorising and intimidating the helot population. Less information is available about the education of Spartan girls, but they seem to have gone through a fairly extensive formal educational cycle, broadly similar to that of the boys but with less emphasis on military training. Spartan girls received an education known as ''mousikē''. This included music, dancing, singing and poetry. Choral dancing was taught so Spartan girls could participate in ritual activities, including the cults of Helen and Artemis. In this respect, classical Sparta was unique in ancient Greece. In no other city-state did women receive any kind of formal education.


Military life

At age 20, the Spartan citizen began his membership in one of the ''syssitia'' (dining messes or clubs), composed of about fifteen members each, of which every citizen was required to be a member. Here each group learned how to bond and rely on one another. The Spartans were not eligible for election for public office until the age of 30. Only native Spartans were considered full citizens and were obliged to undergo the training as prescribed by law, as well as participate in and contribute financially to one of the ''syssitia''. Sparta is thought to be the first city to practice athletic nudity, and some scholars claim that it was also the first to formalize pederasty. According to these sources, the Spartans believed that the love of an older, accomplished aristocrat for an adolescent was essential to his formation as a free citizen. The ''
agoge The ( grc-gre, ἀγωγή in Attic Greek Attic Greek is the Greek language, Greek dialect of the regions of ancient Greece, ancient region of Attica, including the ''polis'' of classical Athens, Athens. Often called classical Greek, it was the ...
'', the education of the ruling class, was, they claim, founded on pederastic relationships required of each citizen, with the lover responsible for the boy's training. However, other scholars question this interpretation. Xenophon explicitly denies it, but not Plutarch. Spartan men remained in the active reserve until age 60. Men were encouraged to marry at age 20 but could not live with their families until they left their active military service at age 30. They called themselves "''homoioi''" (equals), pointing to their common lifestyle and the discipline of the Phalanx formation, phalanx, which demanded that no soldier be superior to his comrades.Readers Companion Military Hist p. 438. Cowley Insofar as hoplite warfare could be perfected, the Spartans did so. Thucydides reports that when a Spartan man went to war, his wife (or another woman of some significance) would customarily present him with his hoplon (shield) and say: "With this, or upon this" (Ἢ τὰν ἢ ἐπὶ τᾶς, ''Èi tàn èi èpì tàs''), meaning that true Spartans could only return to Sparta either victorious (with their shield in hand) or dead (carried upon it). Unfortunately, poignant as this image may be, it is almost certainly propaganda. Spartans buried their battle dead on or near the battle field; corpses were not brought back on their hoplons. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that it was less of a disgrace for a soldier to lose his helmet, breastplate or greaves than his hoplon, since the former were designed to protect one man, whereas the hoplon also protected the man on his left. Thus, the shield was symbolic of the individual soldier's subordination to his unit, his integral part in its success, and his solemn responsibility to his comrades in arms – messmates and friends, often close blood relations. According to Aristotle, the Spartan military culture was actually short-sighted and ineffective. He observed:
It is the standards of civilized men not of beasts that must be kept in mind, for it is good men not beasts who are capable of real courage. Those like the Spartans who concentrate on the one and ignore the other in their education turn men into machines and in devoting themselves to one single aspect of city's life, end up making them inferior even in that.
One of the most persistent myths about Sparta that has no basis in fact is the notion that Spartan mothers were without feelings toward their off-spring and helped enforce a militaristic lifestyle on their sons and husbands. The myth can be traced back to Plutarch, who includes no less than 17 "sayings" of "Spartan women," all of which paraphrase or elaborate on the theme that Spartan mothers rejected their own offspring if they showed any kind of cowardice. In some of these sayings, mothers revile their sons in insulting language merely for surviving a battle. These sayings purporting to be from Spartan women were far more likely to be of Athenian origin and designed to portray Spartan women as unnatural and so undeserving of pity.


Agriculture, food, and diet

Sparta's agriculture consisted mainly of barley, wine, cheese, grain, and figs. These items were grown locally on each Spartan citizen's kleros and were tended to by helots. Spartan citizens were required to donate a certain amount of what they yielded from their kleros to their syssitia, or mess. These donations to the syssitia were a requirement for every Spartan citizen. All the donated food was then redistributed to feed the Spartan population of that syssitia. The helots who tended to the lands were fed using a portion of what they harvested.


Marriage

Plutarch reports the peculiar customs associated with the Spartan wedding night:
The custom was to capture women for marriage... The so-called 'bridesmaid' took charge of the captured girl. She first shaved her head to the scalp, then dressed her in a man's cloak and sandals, and laid her down alone on a mattress in the dark. The bridegroom – who was not drunk and thus not impotent, but was sober as always – first had dinner in the messes, then would slip in, undo her belt, lift her and carry her to the bed.
The husband continued to visit his wife in secret for some time after the marriage. These customs, unique to the Spartans, have been interpreted in various ways. One of them decidedly supports the need to disguise the bride as a man in order to help the bridegroom consummate the marriage, so unaccustomed were men to women's looks at the time of their first intercourse. The "abduction" may have served to ward off the evil eye, and the cutting of the wife's hair was perhaps part of a rite of passage that signaled her entrance into a new life.


Role of women


Political, social, and economic equality

Spartan women, of the citizenry class, enjoyed a status, power, and respect that was unknown in the rest of the classical world. The higher status of females in Spartan society started at birth; unlike Athens, Spartan girls were fed the same food as their brothers.Xenophon, Spartan Society, 1 Nor were they confined to their father's house and prevented from exercising or getting fresh air as in Athens, but exercised and even competed in sports. Most important, rather than being married off at the age of 12 or 13, Spartan law forbade the marriage of a girl until she was in her late teens or early 20s. The reasons for delaying marriage were to ensure the birth of healthy children, but the effect was to spare Spartan women the hazards and lasting health damage associated with Teenage pregnancy, pregnancy among adolescents. Spartan women, better fed from childhood and fit from exercise, stood a far better chance of reaching old age than their sisters in other Greek cities, where the median age for death was 34.6 years or roughly 10 years below that of men. Unlike Women in Classical Athens, Athenian women who wore heavy, concealing clothes and were rarely seen outside the house, Spartan women wore dresses (peplos) slit up the side to allow freer movement and moved freely about the city, either walking or driving chariots. Girls as well as boys exercised, possibly in the nude, and young women as well as young men may have participated in the Gymnopaedia ("Festival of Nude Youths"). Another practice that was mentioned by many visitors to Sparta was the practice of “wife-sharing”. In accordance with the Spartan belief that breeding should be between the most physically fit parents, many older men allowed younger, more fit men, to impregnate their wives. Other unmarried or childless men might even request another man's wife to bear his children if she had previously been a strong child bearer. For this reason many considered Spartan women Polygamy, polygamous or Polyandry, polyandrous. This practice was encouraged in order that women bear as many strong-bodied children as they could. The Spartan population was hard to maintain due to the constant absence and loss of the men in battle and the intense physical inspection of newborns. Spartan women were also literate and numerate, a rarity in the ancient world. Furthermore, as a result of their education and the fact that they moved freely in society engaging with their fellow (male) citizens, they were notorious for speaking their minds even in public. Plato, in the middle of the fourth century, described women's curriculum in Sparta as consisting of gymnastics and mousike (music and arts). Plato goes on to praise Spartan women's ability when it came to philosophical discussion. Most importantly, Spartan women had economic power because they controlled their own properties, and those of their husbands. It is estimated that in later Classical Sparta, when the male population was in serious decline, women were the sole owners of at least 35% of all land and property in Sparta. The laws regarding a divorce were the same for both men and women. Unlike women in Athens, if a Spartan woman became the heiress of her father because she had no living brothers to inherit (an ''epikleros''), the woman was not required to divorce her current spouse in order to marry her nearest paternal relative.Pomeroy, Sarah B. ''Goddess, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity''. New York: Schocken Books, 1995 pp. 60–62


Historic women

Many women played a significant role in the history of Sparta. Gorgo, Queen of Sparta, Queen Gorgo, heiress to the throne and the wife of Leonidas I, was an influential and well-documented figure. Herodotus records that as a small girl she advised her father Cleomenes I, Cleomenes to resist a bribe. She was later said to be responsible for decoding a warning that the Persian forces were about to invade Greece; after Spartan generals could not decode a wooden tablet covered in wax, she ordered them to clear the wax, revealing the warning. Plutarch's ''Moralia'' contains a collection of "Sayings of Spartan Women", including a laconic quip attributed to Gorgo: when asked by a woman from Attica why Spartan women were the only women in the world who could rule men, she replied "Because we are the only women who are mothers of men". In 396, Cynisca, sister of the Eurypontid king Agesilaos II, became the first woman in Greece to win an Olympic chariot race. She won again in 392, and dedicated two monuments to commemorate her victory, these being an inscription in Sparta and a set of bronze equestrian statues at the Olympic temple of Zeus.


Laconophilia

Laconophilia is love or admiration of Sparta and its culture or constitution. Sparta was subject of considerable admiration in its day, even in rival Ancient Athens, Athens. In ancient times "Many of the noblest and best of the Athenians always considered the Spartan state nearly as an ideal theory realised in practice." Many Greek philosophers, especially Platonists, would often describe Sparta as an ideal state, strong, brave, and free from the corruptions of commerce and money. The French classicist François Ollier in his 1933 book ''Le mirage spartiate'' (The Spartan Mirage) warned that a major scholarly problem is that all surviving accounts of Sparta were by non-Spartans who often excessively idealized their subject.Hodkinson, Stephen "The Imaginary Spartan ''Politeria''" pp. 22–81 from ''The Imaginary Polis: Symposium, January 7–10, 2004'' edited by Mogens Herman Hansen, Copenhagen: Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, 2005 p. 222. With the revival of classical learning in Renaissance, Renaissance Europe, Laconophilia re-appeared, for example in the writings of Machiavelli. The Elizabethan English constitutionalist John Aylmer (English constitutionalist), John Aylmer compared the mixed government of Tudor period, Tudor England to the Spartan republic, stating that "Lacedemonia [was] the noblest and best city governed that ever was". He commended it as a model for England. The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau contrasted Sparta favourably with Athens in his ''Discourse on the Arts and Sciences'', arguing that its austere constitution was preferable to the more sophisticated Athenian life. Sparta was also used as a model of austere purity by Revolutionary and Napoleonic France. A German Racialism, racist strain of Laconophilia was initiated by Karl Otfried Müller, who linked Spartan ideals to the supposed racial superiority of the Dorians, the ethnic sub-group of the Greeks to which the Spartans belonged. In the 20th century, this developed into Fascism, Fascist admiration of Spartan ideals. Adolf Hitler praised the Spartans, recommending in 1928 that Germany should imitate them by limiting "the number allowed to live". He added that "The Spartans were once capable of such a wise measure... The subjugation of 350,000 Helots by 6,000 Spartans was only possible because of the racial superiority of the Spartans." The Spartans had created "the first racialist state". Following Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the USSR, Hitler viewed citizens of the USSR as like the helots under the Spartans: "They [the Spartans] came as conquerors, and they took everything", and so should the Germans. A Nazi officer specified that "the Germans would have to assume the position of the Spartiates, while... the Russians were the Helots." Certain early Zionists, and particularly the founders of Kibbutz movement in Israel, were influenced by Spartan ideals, particularly in education. Yitzhak Tabenkin, Tabenkin, a founding father of the Kibbutz movement and the Palmach strikeforce, prescribed that education for warfare "should begin from the nursery", that children should from kindergarten be taken to "spend nights in the mountains and valleys". In modern times, the adjective "Spartan" means simple, frugal, avoiding luxury and comfort. The term "laconic phrase" describes the very terse and direct speech characteristic of the Spartans. Sparta also features prominently in modern Sparta in popular culture, popular culture, most famously the Battle of Thermopylae (see Battle of Thermopylae in popular culture).


Notable ancient Spartans

* Agesilaus II – king * Agis I – king * Agis II – king * Chilon of Sparta, Chilon – philosopher * Chionis of Sparta, Chionis (7th century BC) – athlete * Clearchus of Sparta – mercenary in the army of the Ten Thousand (Greek mercenaries), Ten Thousand. * Cleomenes I – king * Cleomenes III – king and reformer * Cynisca (4th century BC) – princess and athlete * Gorgo, Queen of Sparta, Gorgo – queen and politician * Helen of Troy, Helen – princess in the Trojan War * Leonidas I (c. 520–480 BC) – king, commander at the Battle of Thermopylae * Lycurgus (10th century BC) – lawgiver * Lysander (5th–4th century BC) – general * Menelaus – king during the Trojan War * Nabis – king * Xanthippus of Carthage – Spartan mercenary in the First Punic War


See also

* Archaeological Museum of Sparta * List of Kings of Sparta * List of ancient Greek cities


Explanatory notes


Citations


General sources

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* David, Ephraim. 1989
"Dress in Spartan Society"
''Ancient World'' 19:3–13. * Flower, Michael A. 2009. "Spartan 'Religion' and Greek 'Religion. In ''Sparta: Comparative Approaches''. Edited by Stephen Hodkinson, 193–229. Swansea, UK: Classical Press of Wales. * Hodkinson, Stephen, and Ian MacGregor Morris, eds. 2010. ''Sparta in Modern Thought''. Swansea, UK: Classical Press of Wales. * Low, Polly. 2006. "Commemorating the Spartan War-Dead". In ''Sparta and War''. Edited by Stephen Hodkinson and Anton Powell, 85–109. Swansea, UK: Classical Press of Wales. * Rabinowitz, Adam. 2009. "Drinking from the Same Cup: Sparta and Late Archaic Commensality". In ''Sparta: Comparative Approaches''. Edited by Stephen Hodkinson, 113–191. Swansea, UK: Classical Press of Wales.


External links

*
GTP – Sparta

GTP – Ancient Sparta
* * {{Authority control Sparta, Diarchies Former populated places in Greece Greek city-states Locations in Greek mythology Populated places in Laconia States and territories disestablished in the 2nd century BC States and territories established in the 11th century BC