Sparta II

Who you’ll meet:

There are three kind of people that you would meet in sparta, citizens, helots, and perioiki. Spartan citizens made up only a small portion of the individual occupying sparta at any given time[1]. This is because the requirements for Spartan citizenship were very stringent. To become a Spartan citizen one needed to go through the Spartan education system which is known as agoge. The only ones that were allowed to go through this education process were Spartiates, or individuals that were able to trace their lineage back to the original inhabitants of Sparta[2]. Spartan slaves were known as helots and there were a lot of them, this is because the Spartan army was one of the most powerful armies in the ancient world. Helots were originally free Greeks that hailed from another nation-state, or polis, in Greece. Helots had a large number of benefits for slaves. Although they were not able to vote because they lacked Spartan citizenship they were able to marry and keep 50% of the products that they produced.[3] Another unique characteristic of helots, compared to other slaves, was that they were allowed to practice religious rights and retain personal property.[4] The final group, or type of people, that you would run into in Sparta was the perioiki. The perioiki were almost the same as helots in the sense that they were slaves but they had more freedom than the helots did. They usually served one of three different purposes, a military reserve, skilled craftsmen, or agents of foreign trade.[5]

Spartan Soldiers
Photo Credit: http://www.sparta.net/images/spartan_soldiers.gif

How you will get there:

Sparta is located in the South of Greece. It is relatively close to both Athens and Corinth. At first glance the landmass that it is located on looks like an island but it is not. The straight of Piraeus allows access to Sparta using only methods of land travel. You could also use a boat to sail to a city close to Sparta, Kalamai, and then travel there on foot or by ox-cart. Spartans themselves rarely traveled outside of Sparta because they exhibited high levels of xenophobia.

Why you would go:

For a long period of time, from when the settlement was founded until about 331 BC, the Spartan army was the most powerful army in existence. Many kings would ask the Spartans for help in times of need. Truthfully the Spartan’s army was their biggest export. Later in its history Sparta became a sort of morbid theater. After they lost their title as the most powerful army in ancient Greece people would come from all over to watch the agoge, or how they were trained for military service.

What was Sparta like?

Sparta was advanced governmentally and militarily but their economic stability depended on the success of their war effort, which was usually pretty successful.  Their government was a gerontocracy made up of 60 year old Spartans.[6] Since all male Spartan citizens were forced to serve in the military it was rare that one of them would make it to the age of 60. They were elected by Spartan citizens and were responsible for all governmental action. At its core Sparta was a military nation-state that produced some of the fiercest warriors that the ancient world had ever seen. This had a lot to do with the way that children were reared and schooled. The hardships that a Spartan faced started early in life; a mother would bathe a child in wine shortly after it was born to see whether or not it was strong. If the child survived this process it was then presented to the Gerousia by the father. The Gerousia was tasked with determining whether or not the child was fit to live. If the child was considered unfit or “puny and deformed” it would then be thrown into a chasm on Mount Taygetos (Plutarch 2005)[7]. When a Spartan male reached the age of seven they were entered into the agoge system. The agoge system was designed to create the ultimate warrior. Children lived in groups and 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)[8]. They were encouraged to steal food and other things; this was to help them learn to be stealthy and deceitful if they needed to be. Aside from their physical conditioning and weapons training Spartans were also taught reading, writing, music and dance. They men were allowed to take a wife at the age of 20 but were not allowed to live with until they were 30. This is because at the age of 20 all Spartan men were more or less enlisted into military service at that time. Spartan society also exhibited something that many others did not at the time, and that was social political and economic equality for their women. Spartan women were fed the same food as their brothers and were allowed to participate in sports. Most of them were also educated and had the ability to read and write as well as do math. This led to Spartan women being more willing to speak their minds.[9] Women had economic power because they controlled their own property as well as the property of their husbands. Spartans were so revered in the ancient world that they inspired Laconophilia, or the love and admiration of Sparta and the Spartan culture or constitution.[10] Overall Spartan life was difficult, but they were revered throughout the ancient world for their military prowess and social equality.

Sources:

Carteledge, Paul (2002), Sparta and Lakonia: A Regional History 1300 to 362 BC (2 ed.), Oxford: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-26276-3

Freeusenet.Eu. “The Meaning of ‘Laconophilia’ (1 Posts).” The Meaning of ‘Laconophilia’ Freeusenet.eu, 20 Mar. 2009. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

Harley, T. Rutherford. The Public School of Sparta, Greece & Rome, Vol. 3, No. 9 (May 1934) pp. 129-139.)

Herodotus (IX, 28–29)

Maria Dettenhofer, “Die Frauen von Sparta,” Reine Männer Sache, Munich, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1994, p.25.

West, M.L. (1999), Greek Lyric Poetry, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-954039-6

Plutarch (2005), in Richard J.A. Talbert, On Sparta (2 ed.), London: Penguin Books, ISBN 0-14-0044943-4

Xenophon, Spartan Society, 2


[1] Herodotus (IX, 28–29)

[2] Harley, T. Rutherford. The Public School of Sparta, Greece & Rome, Vol. 3, No. 9 (May 1934) pp. 129-139.).

[3] West, M.L. (1999), Greek Lyric Poetry, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-954039-6

[4] Carteledge, Paul (2002), Sparta and Lakonia: A Regional History 1300 to 362 BC (2 ed.), Oxford: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-26276-3

[5] Carteledge, Paul (2002), Sparta and Lakonia: A Regional History 1300 to 362 BC (2 ed.), Oxford: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-26276-3

[6] Carteledge, Paul (2002), Sparta and Lakonia: A Regional History 1300 to 362 BC (2 ed.), Oxford: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-26276-3

[7] Plutarch (2005), in Richard J.A. Talbert, On Sparta (2 ed.), London: Penguin Books, ISBN 0-14-0044943-4

[8] Xenophon, Spartan Society, 2

[9] Maria Dettenhofer, “Die Frauen von Sparta,” Reine Männer Sache, Munich, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1994, p.25.

[10] Freeusenet.Eu. “The Meaning of ‘Laconophilia’ (1 Posts).” The Meaning of ‘Laconophilia’ Freeusenet.eu, 20 Mar. 2009. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

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