Spartan hegemony
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polis ''Polis'' (, ; grc-gre, :wikt:πόλις, πόλις, ), plural ''poleis'' (, , ), literally means "city" in Greek. In Ancient Greece, it originally referred to an administrative and religious city center, as distinct from the rest of the cit ...

polis
of
Sparta Sparta (Doric Greek: Σπάρτα, ''Spártā''; Attic Greek: wikt:Σπάρτη, Σπάρτη, ''Spártē'') was a prominent city-state in Laconia, in ancient Greece. In antiquity, the city-state was known as Lacedaemon (, ), while the nam ...

Sparta
was the greatest military land power of classical Greek antiquity. During the Classical period, Sparta governed, dominated or influenced the entire
Peloponnese The Peloponnese (), Peloponnesus (; el, Πελοπόννησος, Pelopónnēsos,(), or Morea 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 Isthmu ...
. Additionally, the defeat of the
Athenians Athens ( ; el, Αθήνα, Athína ; grc, Ἀθῆναι, Athênai (pl.) ) is a coastal city in the Mediterranean and is both the capital and largest city of Greece. With a population close to four million, it is also the seventh largest c ...
and the
Delian League The Delian League, founded in 478 BC, was an association of Polis, Greek city-states, numbering between 150 and 330, under the leadership of Classical Athens, Athens, whose purpose was to continue fighting the Achaemenid Empire, Persian Empire a ...
in the
Peloponnesian War The Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC) was an ancient Greece, ancient Greek war fought between Classical Athens, Athens and Sparta and their respective allies for the hegemony of the Ancient Greece, Greek world. The war remained undecided for ...

Peloponnesian War
in 431–404 BC resulted in a short-lived Spartan dominance of the southern Greek world from 404 to 371 BC.Jones, Nicholas F. ''Politics and Society in Ancient Greece.'' Westport, CT: Prager, 2008 Due to their mistrust of others, Spartans discouraged the creation of records about their internal affairs. The only histories of Sparta are from the writings of
Xenophon Xenophon of Athens (; grc, wikt:Ξενοφῶν, Ξενοφῶν ; – probably 355 or 354 BC) was a Greek military leader, philosopher, and historian, born in Athens. At the age of 30, Xenophon was elected commander of one of the biggest Anci ...

Xenophon
,
Thucydides Thucydides (; grc, , }; BC) was an Classical Athens, Athenian historian and general. His ''History of the Peloponnesian War'' recounts Peloponnesian War, the fifth-century BC war between Sparta and Athens until the year 411 BC. Thucydides has ...
,
Herodotus Herodotus ( ; grc, , }; 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 is often roughly divided in ...
and
Plutarch Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; – after AD 119) was a Greek people, Greek Middle Platonism, Middle Platonist philosopher, historian, Biography, biographer, essayist, and priest at the Temple of Apollo (D ...

Plutarch
, none of whom were Spartans. Plutarch was writing several centuries after the period of Spartan hegemony had ceased. This creates difficulties in understanding the Spartan political system, which was distinctly different from any other Greek polis.


History and rise to power

The Spartans had early conquered the southern Peloponnese and incorporated the territory into the enlarged Sparta state. Spartan society functioned within three classes: ''homoioi'' or ''
spartiates A Spartiate (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. ''H ...
'', '' perioeci'', and the ''
helots The helots (; el, εἵλωτες, ''heílotes'') were a Wikt:subjugate, subjugated population that constituted a majority of the population of Laconia and Messenia – the territories ruled by Sparta. There has been controversy since Classical ...
''. The ''helots'' were captives of war and were state-owned slaves of Sparta.Jones, Nicholas F. ''Politics and Society in Ancient Greece.'' Westport, CT: Prager, 2008 They powered the city-state's agrarian economy and were the work force. Additionally, the other class of working population in Spartan society were the ''perioeci'' meaning “dwellers around” who were free peoples of conquered territories. The ''perioeci'' were allowed to maintain their own infrastructures, administrative arrangements and local economy, but had to pay tribute to Sparta and provide soldiers for the military. The ''homoioi'' were the citizens of Sparta.Archer, Melanie. ''The Spartans'' Alexandria, VA: PBS Home Video, 2003 They were the elite class and were the only deserving of the title Spartan. As a result, the Spartan population was very small in comparison with the working classes. There was a ratio of 7 or 8 helots to every Spartan citizen. These three populations performed complementary functions that distinguished Sparta with a unique economic and social organization. While the ''helots'' and the ''perioeci'' were the workforce in agriculture and industry, the Spartans could devote themselves to training, maintaining, and operating the military. The reason for the continual strong military existence was to preserve order in Sparta and hold the large enslaved populations in check.


Sparta's post Peloponnesian War regime

Lysander Lysander (; grc-gre, Λύσανδρος ; died 395 BC) was a Sparta Sparta (Doric Greek: Σπάρτα, ''Spártā''; Attic Greek: wikt:Σπάρτη, Σπάρτη, ''Spártē'') was a prominent city-state in Laconia, in ancient Greece. ...
was the Spartan who after the end of the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC established many of the foreign pro-Spartan governments throughout the Aegean. He also established many Spartan garrisons. Most of the polis ruling systems he set up were ten man oligarchies called decarchies. Harmosts, Spartan military governors, were left as the head of the decarchies. As the men appointed were loyal to Lysander rather than Sparta, this system has been described as Lysander's private empire. In this establishment of a new Aegean order, many lost their lives or were exiled but on the other hand Agina and Melos were restored to their former inhabitants."Spartans, a new history", Nigel Kennell, 2010, p129 Sparta was divided over what to do about Athens itself. Lysander and King Agis were for total destruction as were Sparta's leading allies Corinth and Thebes. However, a more moderate faction led by Pausanias gained the upper hand. Athens was spared but her long walls and the fortifications of Piraeus were demolished. Lysander did manage to insert the significant condition that Athens recall her exiles. The return of the exiles to Athens contributed to the political instability of Athens allowing Lysander to establish shortly the oligarchy that has come to be known as Thirty Tyrants, composed of men beholden to him. The danger of so much power being in the hands of one person had become sufficiently clear that both King Agis and King Pausanias agreed that Lysander's wings needed to be clipped. The decarchies were declared abolished and Athens quickly benefited when Sparta permitted democracy to be restored at Athens.


Agesilaus and his campaigns

Agesilaus II Agesilaus II (; grc-gre, Ἀγησίλαος ; c. 442 – 358 BC) was king of Sparta from c. 399 to 358 BC. Generally considered the most important king in the history of Sparta, Agesilaus was the main actor during the period of Spartan hegemony ...
was one of the two kings of Sparta during Sparta's hegemony. Plutarch later wrote that Agesilaus was a king of the traditional Spartan ideals, often seen wearing his traditional cloak which was threadbare.Plutarch. "Agesilaus." ''Lives of Plutarch.'' Trns. Bernadotte Perrin. Vol. 4. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1959-67 He began his kingship after the end of the Peloponnesian war after his brother Agis II died and was left without an heir. (Agis’ son Leotychidas was rumored to be the illegitimate son of the Athenian
Alcibiades Alcibiades ( ; grc-gre, wikt:Ἀλκιβιάδης, Ἀλκιβιάδης; 450 – 404 BC) was a prominent Athens (polis), Athenian statesman, Public speaking, orator, and general. He was the last of the Alcmaeonidae, which fell from prominen ...
.) One of Agesilaus’ biggest supporters was the famous Spartan naval commander Lysander, who was previously Agesilaus’ ''erastēs'', or mentor. ;The Campaigns Agesilaus’ first campaign was one which trekked into the eastern Aegean and Persian territories via the
Hellespont The Dardanelles (; tr, Çanakkale Boğazı, lit=Strait of Çanakkale, el, Δαρδανέλλια, translit=Dardanéllia), also known as the Strait of Gallipoli from the Gallipoli peninsula or from Classical Antiquity as the Hellespont (; ...
. He first descended upon the
Phrygians The Phrygians (Greek language, Greek: Φρύγες, ''Phruges'' or ''Phryges'') were an ancient Indo-European languages, Indo-European speaking people, who inhabited central-western Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) in antiquity. They were related to ...
and their leader
Tissaphernes Tissaphernes ( peo, wiktionary:Reconstruction:Old Persian/Ciçafarnāʰ, *Ciçafarnāʰ; grc-gre, wiktionary:Τισσαφέρνης, Τισσαφέρνης; xlc, 𐊋𐊆𐊈𐊈𐊀𐊓𐊕𐊑𐊏𐊀 , ; 445395 BC) was a History of Persia, P ...
who had broken a “solemn league” with the Greeks and had earned the “downright contempt of the gods.” He followed Tissaphernes into Persian territory. The Persian king, fearing further plundering of his country ordered Tissaphernes beheaded. He then attempted to bribe Agesilaus with money to leave
Asia Minor Anatolia (also Asia Minor), is a large peninsula in Western Asia and is the western-most extension of continental Asia. The land mass of Anatolia constitutes most of the territory of contemporary Turkey. Geographically, the Anatolian region i ...
. Remaining true to the Spartan ideals of austere living practices, Agesilaus rejected the gold saying “he would rather see it in his soldier’s hands than his own.” Agesilaus did, however, remove his army into Phrygia, grateful for the death of Tissaphernes. Agesilaus soon began another campaign into the western regions of the
Persian Empire The Achaemenid Empire or Achaemenian Empire (; peo, wikt:𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎶, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, , ), also called the First Persian Empire, was an History of Iran#Classical antiquity, ancient Iranian empire founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC. Bas ...
. Plutarch states that he wished to march his armies all the way to the Persian capital of
Susa Susa ( ; Middle elx, 𒀸𒋗𒊺𒂗, translit=Šušen; Middle and Neo- elx, 𒋢𒋢𒌦, translit=Šušun; Neo-Elamite language, Elamite and Achaemenid Empire, Achaemenid elx, 𒀸𒋗𒐼𒀭, translit=Šušán; Achaemenid Empire, Achaem ...
. He was unfortunately deterred by unpleasant news from Epicydidas that the mainland Greek poleis were starting war once again. This would later become known as the
Corinthian War The Corinthian War (395–387 BC) was a conflict in ancient Greece which pitted Sparta against a coalition of city-states comprising Thebes (Greece), Thebes, Classical Athens, Athens, Ancient Corinth, Corinth and Argos, Peloponnese, Argos, backe ...
(395–387 BC) and featured an alliance between the Argives,
Corinth Corinth ( ; el, Κόρινθος, Kórinthos, ) is the successor to an ancient city, and is a former municipality in Corinthia, Peloponnese (region), Peloponnese, which is located in south-central Greece. Since the 2011 local government refor ...
ians, Athenians and
Thebans Thebes (; ell, Θήβα, ''Thíva'' ; grc, Θῆβαι, ''Thêbai'' .) is a city in Boeotia, Central Greece (region), Central Greece. It played an important role in Greek myths, as the site of the stories of Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysus, Heracles ...
against Sparta. The Corinthian war took place between 395 and 386 BC. In Greece, the Spartans under Agesilaus met the numerous rebelling poleis. Among the most important battles that the Spartans fought in this war was that of Coronea, which was fought against a coalition of Greeks but especially the Thebans. The Spartans sought the aid of the Persians, asking them to cut off their support of the Thebans, Corinthians and Athenians. The resulting
Peace of Antalcidas The King's Peace (387 BC) was a peace treaty A peace treaty is an treaty, agreement between two or more hostile parties, usually countries or governments, which formally ends a state of war between the parties. It is different from an armist ...
, named for the Spartan who negotiated it, was established in 386 BC and resulted in Sparta's loss of its Asian territories.


The Boeotian War

During the winter of 379/378 BC, a group of Theban exiles were able to sneak into the city and, despite the 1500-strong Spartan garrison, succeed in liberating Thebes. During the next few years, Sparta mounted four expeditions against Thebes, which completely failed to bring Thebes to heel. In 375 BC, Sparta suffered a symbolically significant defeat at the hands of Thebes in the
Battle of Tegyra {{Campaignbox Greek wars of the 4th century BC The Battle of Tegyra (375 BC) (also known as the Battle of Tegyrae)Plutarch, ' was an Ancient Greece, ancient Greek battle between Thebes, Greece, Theban and Spartan hoplite forces. In the battle, a T ...
. Finally, the Greek city-states attempted a peace on the mainland by sending diplomats to meet with Agesilaus in Sparta.
Epaminondas Epaminondas (; grc-gre, Ἐπαμεινώνδας; 419/411–362 BC) was a Greeks, Greek general of Thebes, Greece, Thebes and statesman of the 4th century BC who transformed the Ancient Greece, Ancient Greek polis, city-state, leading it out o ...
, the Theban diplomat, angered Agesilaus by arguing for the freedom of the non-Spartans of Laconia. Agesilaus then struck the Thebans out of the treaty.Plutarch. "Agesilaus." ''Lives of Plutarch.'' Trns. Bernadotte Perrin. Vol. 4. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1959-67 The ensuing
Battle of Leuctra The Battle of Leuctra ( grc-gre, Λεῦκτρα, ) 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 War conflict ...
in 371 BC marked the end of Spartan hegemony. Agesilaus himself did not fight at Leuctra so as not to appear too belligerent.


Sparta after hegemony

During the Spartan hegemony in Athens there is evidence of criticism of democracy. A document in the 420s BC by a political writer known as the " Old Oligarch" demonstrates the anti-democratic sentiments in Athens. The “Old Oligarch’s” political outlook is shaped by his belief that the economic classes were the source to political motivation; this view is a direct rejection of democracy's efforts to establish civil unity. The “Old Oligarch” argues that the polis by nature is a battlefield rather than a site of public dialogue because individuals side with their socio-economic rank. Yet, despite this anti-democratic feeling, democracy eventually returned to Athens after the expulsion of the Thirty Tyrants. The importance of Sparta in politics largely drops off after Sparta's defeat at Leuctra. Following Agesilaus’ death in 360 BC,
Archidamus III Archidamus III ( grc-gre, wikt:Ἀρχίδαμος, Ἀρχίδαμος ) was the son of Agesilaus II and Kings of Sparta, king of Sparta from 360 to 338 BC. Biography While still a prince, he was the Pederasty in ancient Greece#Terminology, e ...
became king and practiced a policy of non-conflict between Athens and the Second Naval Confederacy (357-355 BC). Between 355 and 346 BC, they allied with Athens against Thebes and the Amphictyonic Council effectively pulling Theban attention away from the Peloponnese.Kennell, Nigel M. "From Archidamus III to Nabis." ''Spartans: A New History.'' United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 159.


References


External links

* {{DEFAULTSORT:Spartan Hegemony