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Coordinates: 37°4′55″N22°25′25″E / 37.08194°N 22.42361°E / 37.08194; 22.42361

Geographic coordinate system Coordinate system

A geographic coordinate system is a coordinate system that enables every location on Earth to be specified by a set of numbers, letters or symbols. The coordinates are often chosen such that one of the numbers represents a vertical position and two or three of the numbers represent a horizontal position; alternatively, a geographic position may be expressed in a combined three-dimensional Cartesian vector. A common choice of coordinates is latitude, longitude and elevation. To specify a location on a plane requires a map projection.



Λακεδαίμων  (Ancient Greek)
900s–192 BC
Coloured Lambda.png
The letter lambda was used by the Spartan army as a symbol of Lacedaemon
Sparta territory.jpg
Territory of ancient Sparta
Common languages Doric Greek
Greek polytheism
Government Diarchy
 1104–1066 BC
 1104–1062 BC
 489–480 BC
Leonidas I
 192 BC
Historical era Classical antiquity
900s BC
685–668 BC
480 BC
431–404 BC
362 BC
  Annexed by Achaea
192 BC
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Greek Dark Ages
Achaean League Blank.png
Roman Republic Spqrstone.jpg
Hollow Lacedaemon. Site of the Menelaion, the ancient shrine to Helen and Menelaus constructed in the Bronze Age city that stood on the hill of Therapne on the left bank of the Eurotas River overlooking the future site of Dorian Sparta. Across the valley the successive ridges of Mount Taygetus are in evidence. Menelaion.jpg
Hollow Lacedaemon. Site of the Menelaion, the ancient shrine to Helen and Menelaus constructed in the Bronze Age city that stood on the hill of Therapne on the left bank of the Eurotas River overlooking the future site of Dorian Sparta. Across the valley the successive ridges of Mount Taygetus are in evidence.

Sparta (Doric Greek: Σπάρτα, Spártā; Attic Greek: Σπάρτη, Spártē) was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece. In antiquity, the city-state was known as Lacedaemon ( Λακεδαίμων , Lakedaímōn), while the name Sparta referred to its main settlement on the banks of the Eurotas River in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. [1] Around 650 BC, it rose to become the dominant military land-power in ancient Greece.

Doric Greek Ancient Greek dialect

Doric, or Dorian 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 Sea and some cities on the south east coast of Anatolia. Together with Northwest Greek, it forms the "Western group" of classical Greek dialects. By Hellenistic times, under the Achaean League, an Achaean-Doric koiné language appeared, exhibiting many peculiarities common to all Doric dialects, which delayed the spread of the Attic-based Koine Greek to the Peloponnese until the 2nd century BC.

Attic Greek Ancient Greek dialect

Attic Greek is the Greek dialect of the ancient city-state of Athens. Of the ancient dialects, it is the most similar to later Greek and is the standard form of the language that is studied in ancient Greek language courses. Attic Greek is sometimes included in the Ionic dialect. Together, Attic and Ionic are the primary influences on Modern Greek.

A city-state is a sovereign state, also described as a type of small independent country, that usually consists of a single city and its dependent territories. Historically, this included cities such as Rome, Athens, Carthage, and the Italian city-states during the Renaissance. As of 2019, only a handful of sovereign city-states exist, with some disagreement as to which are city-states. A great deal of consensus exists that the term properly applies currently to Monaco, Singapore, and Vatican City. City states are also sometimes called microstates which however also includes other configurations of very small countries, not to be confused with micronations.

Given its military pre-eminence, Sparta was recognized as the leading force of the unified Greek military during the Greco-Persian Wars, in rivalry with the rising naval power of Athens. [2] Sparta was the principal enemy of Athens during the Peloponnesian War (between 431 and 404 BC), [3] from which it emerged victorious. The defeat by Thebes in the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC ended Sparta's prominent role, though it maintained its political independence until the Roman conquest of Greece in 146 BC. It then underwent a long period of decline, especially in the Middle Ages, when many Spartans moved to Mystras. Modern Sparta is the capital of the Greek region of Laconia and a center for processing citrus and olives.

Greco-Persian Wars series of conflicts between the Achaemenid Empire of Persia and poleis of the Hellenic world in the fifth century BC

The Greco-Persian Wars were a series of conflicts between the Achaemenid Empire and Greek city-states that started in 499 BC and lasted until 449 BC. The collision between the fractious political world of the Greeks and the enormous empire of the Persians began when Cyrus the Great conquered the Greek-inhabited region of Ionia in 547 BC. Struggling to control the independent-minded cities of Ionia, the Persians appointed tyrants to rule each of them. This would prove to be the source of much trouble for the Greeks and Persians alike.

Classical Athens City-state in ancient Greece

The city of Athens during the classical period of Ancient Greece was the major urban center of the notable polis (city-state) of the same name, located in Attica, Greece, leading the Delian League in the Peloponnesian War against Sparta and the Peloponnesian League. Athenian democracy was established in 508 BC under Cleisthenes following the tyranny of Isagoras. This system remained remarkably stable, and with a few brief interruptions remained in place for 180 years, until 322 BC. The peak of Athenian hegemony was achieved in the 440s to 430s BC, known as the Age of Pericles.

Peloponnesian War Ancient Greek war

The Peloponnesian War was an ancient Greek war fought by the Delian League led by Athens against the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta. Historians have traditionally divided the war into three phases. In the first phase, the Archidamian War, Sparta launched repeated invasions of Attica, while Athens took advantage of its naval supremacy to raid the coast of the Peloponnese and attempt to suppress signs of unrest in its empire. This period of the war was concluded in 421 BC, with the signing of the Peace of Nicias. That treaty, however, was soon undermined by renewed fighting in the Peloponnese. In 415 BC, Athens dispatched a massive expeditionary force to attack Syracuse, Sicily; the attack failed disastrously, with the destruction of the entire force in 413 BC. This ushered in the final phase of the war, generally referred to either as the Decelean War, or the Ionian War. In this phase, Sparta, now receiving support from the Achaemenid Empire, supported rebellions in Athens's subject states in the Aegean Sea and Ionia, undermining Athens's empire, and, eventually, depriving the city of naval supremacy. The destruction of Athens's fleet in the Battle of Aegospotami effectively ended the war, and Athens surrendered in the following year. Corinth and Thebes demanded that Athens should be destroyed and all its citizens should be enslaved, but Sparta refused.

Sparta was unique in ancient Greece for its social system and constitution introduced by the almost mythical figure of Lycurgus. He configured the entire society in order to maximize military proficiency at all costs, focusing all social institutions on military training and physical development. Its inhabitants were classified as Spartiates (Spartan citizens with full rights), mothakes (non-Spartan free men raised as Spartans), perioikoi (free residents engaged in commerce), and helots (state-owned serfs, enslaved non-Spartan local population). Spartiates underwent the rigorous agoge training and education regimen, and Spartan phalanx brigades were widely considered to be among the best in battle. Spartan women enjoyed considerably more rights and equality with men than elsewhere in classical antiquity.

Ancient Greece Civilization belonging to an early period of Greek history

Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Roughly three centuries after the Late Bronze Age collapse of Mycenaean Greece, Greek urban poleis began to form in the 8th century BC, ushering in the Archaic period and colonization of the Mediterranean Basin. This was followed by the period of Classical Greece, an era that began with the Greco-Persian Wars, lasting from the 5th to 4th centuries BC. Due to the conquests by Alexander the Great of Macedon, Hellenistic civilization flourished from Central Asia to the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. The Hellenistic period came to an end with the conquests and annexations of the eastern Mediterranean world by the Roman Republic, which established the Roman province of Macedonia in Roman Greece, and later the province of Achaea during the Roman Empire.

Constitution Set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed

A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation or other type of entity, and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed.

Lycurgus of Sparta Legislator of Sparta

Lycurgus was the quasi-legendary lawgiver of Sparta who established the military-oriented reformation of Spartan society in accordance with the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. All his reforms promoted the three Spartan virtues: equality, military fitness, and austerity.

Sparta was the subject of fascination in its own day, as well as in Western culture following the revival of classical learning. The admiration of Sparta is known as Laconism or Laconophilia. Bertrand Russell wrote:

Western culture Norms, values and political systems originating in Europe

Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization, Occidental culture, the Western world, Western society, and European civilization, is the heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, artifacts and technologies that originated in or are associated with Europe. The term also applies beyond Europe to countries and cultures whose histories are strongly connected to Europe by immigration, colonization, or influence. For example, Western culture includes countries in the Americas and Australasia, whose language and demographic ethnicity majorities are of European descent. Western culture has its roots in Greco-Roman culture from classical antiquity.

Laconophilia 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.

Bertrand Russell British philosopher, mathematician, historian, writer, and activist

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, essayist, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate. At various points in his life, Russell considered himself a liberal, a socialist and a pacifist, although he also confessed that his sceptical nature had led him to feel that he had "never been any of these things, in any profound sense." Russell was born in Monmouthshire into one of the most prominent aristocratic families in the United Kingdom.

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.... [The] ideals that it favors had a great part in framing the doctrines of Rousseau, Nietzsche, and National Socialism. [4]


The earliest attested term referring to Lacedaemon is the Mycenaean Greek 𐀨𐀐𐀅𐀖𐀛𐀍, ra-ke-da-mi-ni-jo, "Lacedaimonian", written in Linear B syllabic script, [5] [n 1] being the equivalent of the written in the Greek alphabet, latter Greek, Λακεδαιμόνιος, Lakedaimonios (Latin: Lacedaemonius). [11] [12]

Eurotas River Eurotas.JPG
Eurotas River

The ancient Greeks used one of three words to refer to the home location of the Spartans. First, "Sparta" refers primarily to the main cluster of settlements in the valley of the Eurotas River. [13] The second word "Lacedaemon" (Λακεδαίμων) [14] was also used sometimes as an adjective and is the name commonly used in the works of Homer and the historians Herodotus and Thucydides. The third term "Laconice" (Λακωνική) referred to the immediate area around the town of Sparta, the plateau east of the Taygetos mountains, [15] and sometimes to all the regions under direct Spartan control, including Messenia.

Herodotus seems to use "Lacedaemon" for the Mycenaean Greek citadel at Therapne, 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. [16] In Homer it is typically combined with epithets of the countryside: wide, lovely, shining and most often hollow and broken (full of ravines), [17] suggesting the Eurotas Valley. "Sparta" on the other hand is the country of lovely women, a epithet for people.

The population were often called Lacedaemonians. This epithet utilized the plural of the adjective Lacedaemonius (Greek: Λακεδαιμὀνιοι; Latin: Lacedaemonii, but also Lacedaemones). The ancients sometimes used a back-formation, referring to the land of Lacedaemon as Lacedaemonian country. As most words for "country" were feminine, the adjective was in the feminine: Lacedaemonia (Λακεδαιμονία, 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 and lexica glossing place names. For example, Hesychius of Alexandria's Lexicon (5th century AD) defines Agiadae as a "place in Lacedaemonia" named after Agis. [18] The actual transition may be captured by Isidore of Seville's Etymologiae (7th century AD), an etymological dictionary. He relied heavily on Orosius' Historiarum Adversum Paganos (5th century AD) and Eusebius of Caesarea's Chronicon (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, relying on Eusebius. [19] There is a rare use, perhaps the earliest of Lacedaemonia, in Diodorus Siculus, [20] but probably with Χὠρα (‘’chúra’’, "country") suppressed.

Lakedaimona was until 2006 the name of a province in the modern Greek prefecture of Laconia.


Sparta is located in the region of Laconia, in the south-eastern Peloponnese. Ancient Sparta was built on the banks of the Eurotas River, the main 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 by hilly uplands reaching 1000 m in altitude. These natural defenses worked to Sparta's advantage and contributed to Sparta never having been sacked. Though landlocked, Sparta had a harbor, Gytheio, on the Laconian Gulf.


Lacedaemon (Greek: Λακεδαίμων) was a mythical king of Laconia. [21] The son of Zeus by the nymph Taygete, he married Sparta, the daughter of Eurotas, by whom he became the father of Amyclas, Eurydice, and Asine. He named the country after himself and the city after his wife. [21] He was believed to have built the sanctuary of the Charites, which stood between Sparta and Amyclae, and to have given to those divinities the names of Cleta and Phaenna. A shrine was erected to him in the neighborhood of Therapne.

Archaeology of the classical period

The theater of ancient Sparta with Mt. Taygetus in the background. Ancient sparta theater.jpg
The theater of ancient Sparta with Mt. Taygetus in the background.

Thucydides 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. [22] [23]

Until the early 20th century, the chief ancient buildings at Sparta were the theatre, of which, however, little showed above ground except portions of the retaining walls; the so-called Tomb of 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; the ruins of a circular structure; some remains of late Roman fortifications; several brick buildings and mosaic pavements. [22]

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 American School at Athens. The structure has been since found to be a semicircular retaining wall of Hellenic origin that was partly restored during the Roman period. [22]

Ruins from the ancient site Sparta ruins.PNG
Ruins from the ancient site

In 1904, the British School at Athens began a thorough exploration of Laconia, and in the following year excavations were made at Thalamae, Geronthrae, and Angelona near Monemvasia. In 1906, excavations began in Sparta. [22]

A small circus described by Leake proved to be a theatre-like building constructed soon after AD 200 around the altar and in front of the temple of Artemis Orthia. Here musical and gymnastic contests took place as well as the famous flogging ordeal ( 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 found in great profusion within the precinct range, dating from the 9th to the 4th centuries BC, supply invaluable evidence for early Spartan art. [22]

In 1907, the sanctuary of Athena "of the Brazen House" (Chalkioikos) was located on the acropolis immediately above the theatre, and though the actual temple is almost completely destroyed, the site has produced the longest extant archaic inscription of Laconia, numerous bronze nails and plates, and a considerable number of votive offerings. The Greek 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 10 km (6 miles) (Polyb. 1X. 21). The late Roman wall enclosing the acropolis, part of which probably dates from the years following the Gothic raid of AD 262, 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. [22]


The Menelaion is a shrine associated with Menelaus, located east of Sparta, by the river Eurotas, on the hill Profitis Ilias (Coordinates: 37°03′57″N22°27′13″E / 37.0659°N 22.4536°E / 37.0659; 22.4536 ). Built early 8th century BC it was believed by Spartans to be the home of Menelaus. In 1970 the British School in Athens started excavations in an attempt to locate Mycenaean remains in the area around Menelaion. Among other findings, they uncovered the remains of two Mycenaean mansions and found the first offerings dedicated to Helen and Menelaus. These mansions were destroyed by earthquake and fire, and archaeologists consider them the possible palace of Menelaus himself. [24] [ better source needed ] Excavations made from the early 1990s to the present suggest that the area around Menelaion in the southern part of the Eurotas valley seems to have been the center of Mycenaean Laconia. [25] 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 save ruined foundations and broken potsherds. [22]


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. [26] 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 (1.2 miles) south-southwest of Sparta. [27] These are the earliest traces of the original Mycenaean Spartan civilisation represented in Homer's Iliad . [ citation needed ]

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. [26] The Dorians seem to have set about expanding the frontiers of Spartan territory almost before they had established their own state. [28] They fought against the Argive Dorians to the east and southeast, and also the 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. [28]

Lycurgus Lycurgus.jpg

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 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. [29] 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. [30] These reforms mark the beginning of the history of Classical Sparta.

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. [31] 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; [32] [33] however, according to Thucydides, the population of Athens in 431 BC was 360,000–610,000, making it much larger. [n 2]

In 480 BC a small force led by King 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, inflicting very high casualties on the Persian forces before finally being overwhelmed. [35] The superior weaponry, strategy, and bronze armour of the Greek hoplites and their 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.

Ancient Sparta. Ancient Sparta.jpg
Ancient Sparta.

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. [36]

In later Classical times, Sparta along with Athens, Thebes, and Persia were the main powers fighting for supremacy in the northeastern Mediterranean. In the course of the 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 Hegemony.

During the Corinthian War, Sparta faced a coalition of the leading Greek states: Thebes, Athens, Corinth, and Argos. The alliance was initially backed by Persia, which feared further Spartan expansion into Asia. [37] 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. [38]

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. [38] 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. [39] Sparta entered its long-term decline after a severe military defeat to Epaminondas of Thebes at the Battle of Leuctra. This was the first time that a full strength 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

Medieval depiction of Sparta from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493) Nuremberg chronicles - f 28v.png
Medieval depiction of Sparta from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)

Sparta never fully recovered from its losses at Leuctra in 371 BC and the subsequent helot revolts. Nonetheless, it was able to continue as a regional power for over two centuries. Neither Philip II nor his son Alexander the Great attempted to conquer Sparta itself.

Even during its decline, Sparta never forgot its claim to be the "defender of Hellenism" and its Laconic wit. An anecdote has it that when Philip II sent a message to Sparta saying "If I enter Laconia, I will raze Sparta", the Spartans responded with the single, terse reply: αἴκα, "if". [40] [41] [42]

When Philip created the league of the Greeks 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".

During Alexander's campaigns in the east, the Spartan king Agis III sent a force to Crete in 333 BC with the aim of securing the island for Sparta. [43] Agis next took command of allied Greek forces against Macedon, gaining early successes, before laying siege to Megalopolis in 331 BC. A large Macedonian army under general Antipater marched to its relief and defeated the Spartan-led force in a pitched battle. [44] More than 5,300 of the Spartans and their allies were killed in battle, and 3,500 of Antipater's troops. [45] 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. [46] Alexander was merciful, and he only forced the Spartans to join the League of Corinth, which they had previously refused. [47]

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 Laconian War by a coalition of other Greek city-states and Rome and the resultant overthrow of its final king Nabis. Sparta played no active part in the Achaean War in 146 BC when the Achaean League was defeated by the Roman general Lucius Mummius. Subsequently, Sparta became a free city under Roman rule, some of the institutions of Lycurgus were restored, [48] and the city became a tourist attraction for the Roman elite who came to observe exotic Spartan customs. [n 3]

In 214 AD Roman emperor Caracalla, in his preparation for his campaign against Parthia, recruited a 500-man Spartan cohort ( 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 pilos-like cap and a wooden club. The unit was presumably discharged in 217 after Caracalla was assassinated. [51]

Postclassical and modern Sparta

In 396 AD, Sparta was sacked by Visigoths under Alaric I who sold inhabitants into slavery. [52] [53] According to Byzantine sources, some parts of the Laconian region remained pagan until well into the 10th century AD. 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, and Sparta fell further in even local importance. Modern Sparti was re-founded in 1834, by a decree of King Otto of Greece.

Structure of Classical Spartan society


Structure of the Spartan Constitution SpartaGreatRhetra.png
Structure of the Spartan Constitution

Sparta was an oligarchy. The state was ruled by two hereditary kings of the Agiad and Eurypontid families, [54] both supposedly descendants of Heracles and equal in authority, so that one could not act against the power and political enactments of his colleague. [22]

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). [22]

Civil and criminal cases were decided by a group of officials known as the ephors, as well as a council of 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. [55] High state decisions were discussed by this council, who could then propose policies to the damos, the collective body of Spartan citizenry, who would select one of the alternatives by vote. [56] [57]

Royal prerogatives were curtailed over time. From the period of the Persian wars, the king lost the right to 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. [22]

An assembly of citizens called the apella [22] was responsible for electing men to the gerousia for life.


The Spartan education process known as the agoge 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 [58] 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. [59] 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 perioikoi, free inhabitants who were non-citizens, and the helots, [60] state-owned serfs. Descendants of non-Spartan citizens were forbidden the agoge.


The Spartans were a minority of the Lakonian population. The largest class of inhabitants were the helots (in Classical Greek Εἵλωτες / Heílôtes). [61] [62]

The helots were originally free Greeks from the areas of Messenia 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.

Helots did not have voting or political rights. The Spartan poet Tyrtaios refers to Helots being allowed to marry and retaining 50% of the fruits of their labor. [63] They also seem to have been allowed to practice religious rites and, according to Thucydides, own a limited amount of personal property. [64] Initially Helots couldn't be freed but during the middle Hellenistic period 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. [65] 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 Thespian and Theban troops and a number of helots. [66]

Relations between the helots and their Spartan masters were sometimes strained. There was at least one helot revolt (c. 465–460 BC), and Thucydides remarked that "Spartan policy is always mainly governed by the necessity of taking precautions against the helots." [67] [68] 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. [69] 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 [70] of the middle 3rd century BC:

"They assign to the Helots every shameful task leading to disgrace. For they ordained that each one of them must wear a dogskin cap (κυνῆ / kunễ) and wrap himself in skins (διφθέρα / diphthéra) and receive a stipulated number of beatings every year regardless of any wrongdoing, so that they would never forget they were slaves. Moreover, if any exceeded the vigour proper to a slave's condition, they made death the penalty; and they allotted a punishment to those controlling them if they failed to rebuke those who were growing fat". [71]

Plutarch also states that Spartans treated the Helots "harshly and cruelly": they compelled them to drink pure wine (which was considered dangerous – 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). [72]

Each year when the Ephors took office, they ritually declared war on the helots, allowing Spartans to kill them without risk of ritual pollution. [73] 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 Krypteia . [74] 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." [75] [76]


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. [77] 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, [78] they were increasingly integrated into the combat units of the Spartan army as the Spartiate population declined. [79]


Name vase of the Spartan artist known as the Rider Painter (black-figured kylix, c. 550-530 BC) Rider BM B1.jpg
Name vase of the Spartan artist known as the Rider Painter (black-figured kylix, c. 550–530 BC)

Full citizen Spartiates were barred by law from trade or manufacture, which consequently rested in the hands of the Perioikoi. [22] This lucrative monopoly, in a fertile territory with a good harbors, ensured the loyalty of the perioikoi. [80] Despite the prohibition on menial labor or trade, there is evidence of Spartan sculptors, [81] 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. [82] [83] It was not until the 260s or 250s BC that Sparta began to mint its own coins. [84] 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. [85]

Allegedly as part of the Lycurgan Reforms in the mid-8th century BC, a massive land reform had divided property into 9,000 equal portions. Each citizen received one estate, a kleros, which was expected to provide his living. [86] 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. [87] 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, which removed the legal prohibition on the gift or bequest of land. [22] [88] 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, [22] but this could not reverse the trend.

Life in Classical Sparta

Jean-Pierre Saint-Ours, The Selection of Children in Sparta, 1785. A Neoclassical imaging of what Plutarch describes. Jean-Pierre Saint-Ours - Gericht uber die Neugeborenen Spartas - 2358 - Bavarian State Painting Collections.jpg
Jean-Pierre Saint-Ours, The Selection of Children in Sparta, 1785. A Neoclassical imaging of what Plutarch describes.

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. [22] It is commonly stated that if they considered it "puny and deformed", the baby was thrown into a chasm on Mount Taygetos known euphemistically as the Apothetae (Gr., ἀποθέται, "Deposits"). [89] [90] This was, in effect, a primitive form of eugenics. [89] 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." [91] :61There is controversy about the matter in Sparta, since excavations in the chasm only uncovered adult remains, likely belonging to criminals. [92]

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. [93]


Bronze applique of Spartan manufacture, possibly depicting Orestes, 550-525 BC (Getty Villa) Spartan swordman.jpg
Bronze appliqué of Spartan manufacture, possibly depicting Orestes, 550–525 BC (Getty Villa)

When male Spartans began military training at age seven, they would enter the agoge 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." [94] In addition they were trained to survive in times of privation, even if it meant stealing. [95] Besides physical and weapons training, boys studied reading, writing, music and dancing. Special punishments were imposed if boys failed to answer questions sufficiently 'laconically' (i.e. briefly and wittily). [96]

There is some evidence that in late-Classical and Hellenistic Sparta boys were expected to take an older male mentor, usually an unmarried young man. However, there is no evidence of this in archaic Sparta. 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 Spartan pederasty is not entirely clear). [97] It is notable, however, that the only contemporary source with direct experience of the agoge, Xenophon, explicitly denies the sexual nature of the relationship. [94]

Post 465 BC, 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. [98]

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. In this respect, classical Sparta was unique in ancient Greece. In no other city-state did women receive any kind of formal education. [99]

Military life

The so-called Leonidas sculpture (5th century BC), Archaeological Museum of Sparta, Greece Helmed Hoplite Sparta.JPG
The so-called Leonidas sculpture (5th century BC), Archaeological Museum of Sparta, Greece

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. [22] 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. [100]

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. [101] 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 education of the ruling class, was, they claim, founded on pederastic relationships required of each citizen, [102] with the lover responsible for the boy's training.

However, other scholars question this interpretation. Xenophon explicitly denies it, [94] but not Plutarch. [103]

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, which demanded that no soldier be superior to his comrades. [104] Insofar as hoplite warfare could be perfected, the Spartans did so. [105]

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). [106] 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. [107] 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. [108]

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. [109] [110] 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. [107]

Agriculture, food, and diet

Sparta's agriculture consisted mainly of barley, wine, cheese, grain, and figs. These items were grown locally on each Spartan citizens 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. [111] The helots who tended to the lands were fed using a portion of what they harvested. [112]


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. [113]

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. [114]

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. [115] 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. [115] 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 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. [116]

Unlike 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"). [117] [118]

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. [119] For this reason many considered Spartan women polygamous or polyandrous. [120] 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. [121]

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. [122] 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. [123]

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. [124] 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. [125]

Historic women

Many women played a significant role in the history of Sparta. [126] 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 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. [127] 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". [128]


Laconophilia is love or admiration of Sparta and its culture or constitution. Sparta was subject of considerable admiration in its day, even in rival 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." [129] 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. [130]

Young Spartans Exercising by Edgar Degas (1834-1917) Young Spartans National Gallery NG3860.jpg
Young Spartans Exercising by Edgar Degas (1834–1917)

With the revival of classical learning in Renaissance Europe, Laconophilia re-appeared, for example in the writings of Machiavelli. The Elizabethan English constitutionalist John Aylmer compared the mixed government of 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. [131]

A German 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 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". [132]

Certain early Zionists, and particularly the founders of Kibbutz movement in Israel, were influenced by Spartan ideals, particularly in education. 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". [133] [134]

In modern times, the adjective "spartan" means simple, frugal, avoiding luxury and comfort. [135] The term "laconic phrase" describes the very terse and direct speech characteristic of the Spartans.

Sparta also features prominently in modern popular culture, most famously the Battle of Thermopylae (see Battle of Thermopylae in popular culture).

Notable ancient Spartans

See also

Notes and references

  1. Found on the following tablets: TH Fq 229, TH Fq 258, TH Fq 275, TH Fq 253, TH Fq 284, TH Fq 325, TH Fq 339, TH Fq 382. [6] There are also words like 𐀨𐀐𐀅𐀖𐀛𐀍𐀄𐀍, ra-ke-da-mo-ni-jo-u-jo – found on the TH Gp 227 tablet [6] – that could perhaps mean "son of the Spartan". [7] [8] Moreover, the attested words 𐀨𐀐𐀅𐀜 , ra-ke-da-no and 𐀨𐀐𐀅𐀜𐀩, ra-ke-da-no-re could possibly be Linear B forms of Lacedaemon itself; the latter, found on the MY Ge 604 tablet, is considered to be the dative case form of the former which is found on the MY Ge 603 tablet. It is considered much more probable though that ra-ke-da-no and ra-ke-da-no-re correspond to the anthroponym Λακεδάνωρ, Lakedanor, though the latter is thought to be related etymologically to Lacedaemon. [6] [9] [10]
  2. According to Thucydides, the Athenian citizens at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War (5th century BC) numbered 40,000, making with their families a total of 140,000 people in all. The metics, i.e. those who did not have citizen rights and paid for the right to reside in Athens, numbered a further 70,000, whilst slaves were estimated at between 150,000 to 400,000. [34]
  3. Especially the Diamastigosis at the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, Limnai outside Sparta. There an amphitheatre was built in the 3rd century AD to observe the ritual whipping of Spartan youths. [49] [50]
  1. Cartledge 2002 , p. 91
  2. Cartledge 2002 , p. 174
  3. Cartledge 2002 , p. 192
  4. Russell, Bertrand. "Chapter XII: The Influence of Sparta". History of western philosophy. ISBN   978-1138127043. OCLC   931802632.
  5. "The Linear B word ra-ke-da-mi-ni-jo". Palaeolexicon. Word study tool of Ancient languages.
  6. 1 2 3 "TH 229 Fq (305)". "TH Fq 258 (305)". "TH 275 Fq (305)". "TH 253 Fq (305)". "TH 284 Fq (305)". "TH 325 Fq (305)". "TH 339 Fq (305)". "TH 382 Fq (305)". "TH 227 Gp (306)". "MY 603 Ge + frr. (58a)". "MY 604 Ge (58a)". DĀMOS Database of Mycenaean at Oslo. University of Oslo.
  7. Thompson, Rupert (2010). "Mycenaean Greek". In Bakker, Egbert J. (ed.). A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language. Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 223. ISBN   978-1-4051-5326-3.
  8. Beekes, R.S.P. (2010). "s.v. υἱός". Etymological Dictionary of Greek. 2. With the assistance of Lucien van Beek. Leiden, Boston: Brill. p. 1528. ISBN   9789004174184.
  9. Raymoure, K.A. "ra-ke-da-no". Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B. Deaditerranean. Archived from the original on 2013-10-12. Retrieved 2014-03-23.
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  11. LIddell & Scott 1940 , Λακεδαιμόνιος, s.v. Λακεδαίμων.
  12. Lacedaemonius, s.v. Lacedaemon . Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary on Perseus Project .
  13. LIddell & Scott 1940 , Σπάρτη.
  14. Liddell & Scott 1940 , Λακεδαίμων.
  15. Cartledge 2002 , p. 4
  16. MacBean, Alexander; Johnson, Samuel (1773). "Lacedaemon". A Dictionary of Ancient Geography [etc.] London: G. Robinson [etc.].
  17. Autenrieth 1891 , Λακεδαίμων.
  18. Schmidt, Maurice, ed. (1863). "s.v. Ἀγιάδαι". Hesychii Alexandrini Lexicon (in Greek). Jena: Frederick Mauk.. At the Internet Archive
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  20. Diodorus Siculus, Library, 19.70.2.
  21. 1 2 Pausanias 1918 , Description of Greece, ΙΙΙ.1.2.
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Tod, Marcus Niebuhr (1911). "Sparta". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica . 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 609–14.
  23. Thucydides, i. 10
  24. The British School at Athens, Home.
  25. The Mycenaean presence in the southeastern Eurotas valley: Vouno Panagias and Ayios Georgios, by Emilia Banou.
  26. 1 2 Herodot, Book I, 56.3
  27. Cartledge 2002 , p. 28
  28. 1 2 Ehrenberg 2004 , p. 31
  29. Ehrenberg 2004 , p. 36
  30. Ehrenberg 2004 , p. 33
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  35. Green 1998 , p. 10
  36. Britannica ed. 2006, "Sparta"
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  38. 1 2 "The Oxford Illustrated History of Greece and the Hellenistic World" p. 141, John Boardman, Jasper Griffin, Oswyn Murray
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  40. Davies 1998 , p.  133.
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  42. Plutarch 1891 , De garrulitate, 17; in Greek.
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  46. Diodorus, World History, 17.62.1–63.4; tr. C.B. Welles
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  49. Cicero (1918). "II.34". In Pohlenz, M. (ed.). Tusculanae Disputationes (in Latin). Leipzig: Teubner. At the Perseus Project.
  50. Michell, Humfrey (1964). Sparta. Cambridge University Press. p. 175.
  51. Cartledge, Paul (2002). Hellenistic and Roman Sparta. Psychology Press. p. 108.
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  64. Cartledge 2002 , p. 141
  65. Cartledge 2002 , p. 140
  66. Ehrenberg 2004 , p. 159
  67. Thucydides (IV, 80); the Greek is ambiguous
  68. Cartledge 2002 , p. 211
  69. Thucydides (VII, 27)
  70. Talbert, p. 26.
  71. Apud Athenaeus, 14, 647d = FGH 106 F 2. Trans. by Cartledge, p. 305.
  72. Life of Lycurgus 28, 8–10. See also, Life of Demetrios, 1, 5; Constitution of the Lacedemonians 30; De Cohibenda Ira 6; De Commmunibus Notitiis 19.
  73. (Plutarch, Life of Lycurgus 28, 7)
  74. Powell 2001 , p. 254
  75. Thucydides (Book IV 80.4).
  76. Classical historian Anton Powell has recorded a similar story from 1980s El Salvador. Cf. Powell, 2001, p. 256
  77. Cartledge 2002 , pp. 153–55
  78. Cartledge 2002 , pp. 158, 178
  79. "Population Patterns in Late Archaic and Classical Sparta" by Thomas Figueira, Transactions of the American Philological Association 116 (1986), pp. 165–213
  80. Paul Cartledge, Sparta and Lakonia, Routledge, London, 1979, pp. 154–59
  81. Conrad Stibbe, Das Andere Sparta, Verlag Philipp von Zabern, Mainz, 1996, pp. 111–27
  82. Excel HSC Ancient History By Peter Roberts, ISBN   1-74125-178-8 , 978-1-74125-178-4
  83. Greene, Robert (2000), The 48 Laws of Power , Penguin Books, p. 420, ISBN   0-14-028019-7
  84. Hodkinson, Stephen (2000), Property and Wealth in Classical Sparta, p. 154
  85. Conrad Stibbe, Das Andere Sparta, Verlag Philipp von Zabern, Mainz, 1996
  86. A.H.M. Jones, Sparta, Basel Blackwell and Mott Ltd.,1967, pp. 40–43
  87. Stephen Hodkinson, Property and Wealth in Classical Sparta, The Classical Press of Wales, Swansea, 2000. See also Paul Cartledge's discussion of property in Sparta in Sparta and Lakonia, pp. 142–44.
  88. Social Conflict in Ancient Greece By Alexander Fuks, ISBN   965-223-466-4 , 978-965-223-466-7
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  92. Ancient Sparta – Research Program of Keadas Cavern Theodoros K. Pitsios
  93. Plutarch, Lycurgus 27.2–3. However this may be conflating later practice with that of the classical period. See Not the Classical Ideal: Athens and the Construction of the Other in Greek Art ed. Beth Cohen, p. 263, note 33, 2000, Brill.
  94. 1 2 3 Xenophon, Spartan Society, 2
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  102. Erich Bethe, Die Dorische Knabenliebe: ihre Ethik und ihre Ideen (The Doric pederasty: their ethics and their ideas), Sauerländer, 1907, 441, 444. ISBN   978-3921495773
  103. Plutarch, The Life of Lycurgus, 18
  104. Readers Companion Military Hist p. 438. Cowley
  105. Adcock 1957 , pp. 8–9
  106. Plutarch 2004 , p. 465
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  129. Mueller: Dorians II, 192
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Further reading

Related Research Articles

Laconia Regional unit in Peloponnese, Greece

Laconia is a region of Greece in the southeastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. Its administrative capital is Sparta. The word laconic is derived from the name of the region by analogy—to speak in a concise way, as the Spartans were reputed by the Athenians to do.

The polis of Sparta was the greatest military land power of classical Greek antiquity. During the classical period, Sparta governed, dominated or influenced the entire Peloponnese. Additionally, the defeat of the Athenians and the Delian League in the Peloponnesian War in 431-404 BC resulted in a short-lived Spartan dominance of the southern Greek world from 404 to 371 BC. 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, Thucydides, Herodotus and 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.

Helots A Greek population ruled by Sparta

The helots were a subjugated population group that formed the main population of Laconia and Messenia, the territory controlled by Sparta. Their exact status was already disputed in antiquity: according to Critias, they were "slaves to the utmost", whereas according to Pollux, they occupied a status "between free men and slaves". Tied to the land, they primarily worked in agriculture as a majority and economically supported the Spartan citizens.

Pausanias (general) ancient Spartan general

Pausanias was a Spartan regent, general, and war leader for the Greeks who was suspected of conspiring with the Persian king, Xerxes I, during the Greco-Persian Wars. What is known of his life is largely according to Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, together with a handful of other classical sources.

Gylippus was a Spartan general of the 5th century BC; he was the son of Cleandridas, who was the adviser of King Pleistoanax and had been expelled from Sparta for accepting Athenian bribes in 446 BC and fled to Thurii, a pan-Hellenic colony then being founded in the instep of Italy with Athenian help and participation. His mother may have been a helot, which meant he was not a true Spartiate but a mothax, a man of inferior status. Despite this, however, from an early childhood he was trained for war in the traditional Spartan fashion and on reaching maturity had been elected to a military mess, his dues contributed by a wealthier Spartiate patron. For an individual of marginal origins, war was an opportunity to gain honor and eminence.

Lacedaemonius was an Athenian general, the son of Cimon of the Philaid clan. Like his father and grandfather Lacedaemonius was a general and served Athens, notably in the naval Battle of Sybota against the Corinthians in 433 BC. His name comes from Lacedaemon, another name for the city state of Sparta. Cimon so admired the Spartans he showed them a sign of goodwill by naming his son after their city.

<i>Agoge</i> Ancient Spartan education and training regimen

The agōgē was the rigorous education and training program mandated for all male Spartan citizens, except for the firstborn son in the ruling houses, Eurypontid and Agiad. The training involved cultivating loyalty to the Spartan group, military training, hunting, dancing, singing, and social (communicating) preparation. The word "agoge" meant rearing in ancient Greek, but in this context generally meant leading, guidance, or training.


The Perioeci or Períoikoi 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. The name Περίοικοι roughly means "those dwelling around/nearby", deriving from περί, peri, "around", and οἶκος, oîkos, "dwelling, house".


A Spartiates [ˌspärshēˈātē(z)] or Spartiate [ˈspärshēˌāt] or Homoios was a male of Sparta, known to the Spartans as a "peer" or "man of equal status". From a young age, male Spartiates were trained for battle and put through grueling challenges intended to craft them into fearless warriors. In battle, they had the reputation of being the best soldiers in Greece, and the strength of Sparta's hoplite forces let the city become the dominant state in Greece throughout much of the Classical period. Other city-states were reluctant to attack Sparta even though it could muster a force of only about 8000 Spartiates during the zenith of its dominance, such was the reputation of its soldiers.

Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia sanctuary

The Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, an Archaic site devoted in Classical times to Artemis, was one of the most important religious sites in the Greek city-state of Sparta, and continued to be used into the fourth century CE, when all non-Christian worship was banned during the persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire.

In Ancient Greece, the Partheniae or Parthenians were a lower ranking Spartiate population which, according to tradition, left Laconia to go to Magna Graecia and founded Taras, modern Taranto, in the current region of Apulia, in southern Italy.

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The Spartan army stood at the center of the Spartan state, citizens trained in the disciplines and honor of a warrior society. Subject to military drill from early manhood, the Spartans became one of the most feared military forces in the Greek world. At the height of Sparta's power – between the 6th and 4th centuries BC – it was commonly accepted by other Greeks that "one Spartan was worth several men of any other state". According to Thucydides, the famous moment of Spartan surrender on the island of Sphacteria, off Pylos, in 425 BC, was highly unexpected. He wrote that "it was the common perception at the time that Spartans would never lay down their weapons for any reason, be it hunger, or danger."

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Spartan Constitution Document outlinining Spartan society and eugenics

The Spartan Constitution, or Politeia, refers to the government and laws of the Dorian city-state of Sparta from the time of Lycurgus, the legendary law-giver, to the incorporation of Sparta into the Roman Republic: approximately the 9th century BC to the 2nd century BC. Every city-state of Greece had a politeia at all times of its sovereign life, including the preceding Achaean Sparta and the subsequent Roman Sparta. The politeia of Dorian Sparta, however, was noted by many classical authors for its unique features, which supported a rigidly layered social system and a strong military.

Women in ancient Sparta

Spartan women were famous in ancient Greece for having more freedom than elsewhere in the Greek world. To contemporaries outside of Sparta, Spartan women had a reputation for promiscuity and controlling their husbands. Unlike their Athenian counterparts, Spartan women could legally own and inherit property and they were usually better educated. The extant written sources are limited and from a largely non-Spartan viewpoint. As Anton Powell puts it, to say that the written sources are "'not without problems'... as an understatement would be hard to beat".

Theban–Spartan War War during 378-362 BC between Thebes and Sparta

The Theban–Spartan War of 378–362 BC was a series of military conflicts fought between Sparta and Thebes for hegemony over Greece.