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Option 1

Greece: Spartan Society to the Battle of Leuctra

371 BC
1. The Geographical Setting:
1.1 The Geographical Setting, Natural Features and Resources of
Ancient Sparta:
Sparta situated in Eurotas Valley in the heart of Laconia
- One of the most fertile plains in Ancient Greece.
- Eurotas River flowed through the valley.
-Mountain ranges surrounded the valley;
>Eurotas Mt range to the west
>Pernon Mt range to the East
>Arcadian Mt range to the North
- Varying climate, Hot it summer and cold in winter with snow covering the
surrounding mountains
-Rainfall was light but adequate

Sparta consisted of 5 villages, 4 of which were situated along the Eurotas

- This provided a water supply for the villages.
-The 5th village, Amyclae, was located 5km south of the other villages.

Laconia was captured by the Dorian people in the 10th century BC

- They took control of the land and forced the original inhabitants into
'Helots' or state owned serfs.
- These 'Helots' farmed many resources such as barley, wheat, olives, figs,
horses, sheep, grapes, cattle, goats and pigs
- The mountains surrounding the villages provided a wealth of timber, wild
animals, iron and other minerals.

2. Social Structure and political organisation:

2.1 The issue of Lycurgus the lawgiver

Little is known about the precise development of the Spartan system

-This is mainly due to the Spartans mysterious ways and lack of written
-According to Plutarch and many other ancient sources, the framework for
the complete Spartan system including military and constitution was the
work of a mysterious law giver known as Lycurgus

Lycurgus was a shadowy figure whose existence itself is highly

-Many historians do believe that Lycurgus did exist as the sole creator of
the Spartan system, however, these historians do argue on the time
period which he existed
- Other historians believe that the creation of the Spartan system was the
work of many lawgivers over a long period of change.
-H. Michel believes "Not a single statement on Plutarch's work can be
accepted with certainty and that even the very existence of Lycurgus is
strongly open to doubt"
- A. Andrews claims "If there was a real Lycurgus, we know nothing of him "

Many historians believe that the Spartan reform was most likely gradual
-However many written sources which have survived from Sparta name
Lycurgus as a god and the sole creator of the reform

Lycurgus' life was documented by Plutarch.

-According to Plutarch, Lycurgus received the 'Great Rhetora' from the
Dephic Oracle, which contained the directions to how Sparta should be run
-For the establishment of the Spartan state, the Spartans needed;
o A sanctuary of Zeus
o The organisation of the Spartan society into social units
o The creation of the Gerousia, council with 28 members
o The appointment of two Kings, also part of the Gerousia
o The creation of the general assembly, Ecclesia

2.2 Roles and privileges of the Two Spartan Kings:

Sparta was ruled by two kings
-Believed that the dual monarchy originated when two Peloponnesian
tribes joined together during the 9th century BC
-Some historians argue that dual kingship was initiated by Lycurgus as a
check and balance approach to ruling.
-The families were believed to be able to trace their heritage back to the
great god Heracles.
Privileges of the kings:
-Supported at the expense of the state
-Given the skins of sacrificed animals
-On entering the assembly, everyone rose except the ephors
-Given the seats of honour at religious festivals
-Received part of booty from war
Military roles
-The kings were the Supreme commanders of the army
-possessed the right to declare Sparta at war at any time
-One of the two kings would go on campaign while the other stayed in
Sparta to maintain order

o This is due to an argument about tactics between two kings on

the battlefield which lead to one king withdrawing his troops and the
battle being lost.
2.3 Government; ephorate, gerousia and ecclesia:
-The ephors represented a unique Spartan institution.
- Ephors were originally the chiefs from each of the 5 villages
-Ephors slowly gained power over time
-Consisted of Spartan citizens over the age of 30, chosen by the ecclesia
and elected for one year terms
Roles and responsibilities
-Summoned and presided over the Gerousia and Assembly
-Put motions before the ecclesia
-Carried out laws
-Responsible for Training and disciplining youth
-Supervising lesser magistrates
-Controlling public finances
-Administering justice
-Supervised the Kryptea - Declared war on Helots annually
-Selected troops which would go out on campaign, they selected the royal

-The council of 30 members including the two kings were set up to help
advise the kings and influence their political affairs.
-The 28 council members, each over 60 years of age, were elected by the
Ecclesia by the volume of cheering for each candidate.
-These men were no longer eligible for military service so they could spend
their entire time to political issues.
-Acted as a court for trying criminal cases such as murder and treason.

Aristotle argues many flaws with the Gerousia.

-He points out that election process was an incredibly silly way of electing
people to an important office
-He also states that "It would be all right if the people elected could be
counted on to behave wisely and virtuously. But as a matter of fact they
can't be. There is evidence that members of the Gerousia have been
guilty of bribery and favouritism. Besides, people's minds grow old, as well
as their bodies"
- "It would be better if the council's meeting could be observed by the
people and if in some way it could be made answerable for its decisions,
neither of which is the case"

-usually referred to as the assembly, gave Sparta the appearance of being
a democracy, however they had no real power and was not allowed to
discuss or amend bills.

-Only Spartan males over the age of 30 (equals) were allowed to attend
the Ecclesia.
-However they did have the power to elect the Ephors.
-Met outside the city in an tent without sides
-Questions of peace, war and foreign policy were voted upon by the
Ecclesia; however they could not put forward their own proposals.
-Listened to debates between Kings, Ephors and councillors and then
simply voted for or against a proposal.
2.4 Social Structure; Spartiates, Perioeci, Inferiors and Helots:
-The Spartiates were the male citizens of Sparta, over the age of 30 and
had successfully finished the Agoge.
-To maintain Spartiate citizenship, a Spartiate is required to:
o Have Spartan parents and pass a fitness test at birth
o Own a Kleros (plot of land)
o Complete the Educational and military requirements (Agoge)
o Be a member of a military mess and contribute food to the
-All political power in Sparta belonged to these men.
-There were never more than 10,000 Spartiates
-Forbidden to take part in farming, trade, or industry
-Entire life revolved around military service.

-These citizens were in the void between citizens and non-citizens.
-Consisted of members of Spartan social groups who were unfit or
unworthy of citizenship.
-Avoided by everyone who had citizenship


Spartans who had lost their citizenship by failing the

Agoge or by not contributing their required amounts to
the syssitian
Helots who have been given freedom due to courageous
war service
Sons of Helots who had been adopted as playmates for
Spartan boys. They shared the same physical training
Illegitimate children of Spartan fathers and Helot mothers
Spartiates who had lost their citizen due to cowardice in

-Perioeci means dwellers around, they inhabited the less fertile planes in
-Because Spartan citizens were forbidden to craft, manufacture or gather
their own resources, Perioeci became craftsmen, manufacturers,
tradesmen and fishermen.
- The Perioeci became quite wealthy through trade with Sparta

-the Perioeci were allowed to govern themselves unlike the Helots who
were under Spartan control.
-The Perioeci were expected to support the Spartans in battle in times of
-The Perioeci were responsible for the armour and weapons which the
Spartans relied on in battle.

-about 70% of the Spartan population consisted of Helots.
-Helots were 'state serfs' and were descendants of the Messenia's who
were conquered by Sparta in the 10th century BC
-They were attached to the lands which they worked on and belonged to
the Spartan polis
- A Spartiate was given a group of Helots which produced food which was
then contributed to the Syssitia.
-Helots were constantly killed if they displayed any signs of rebellious
behaviour or physical strength which could be a threat to Spartans.

2.5 Role of the Spartan Army:

The Spartan army was the fabric of Spartan society.
-The Spartans devoted all their resources to developing a highly trained,
well equipped army
-Became masters of the hoplite phalanx
-Each Spartiate had to belong to some part of the Spartan army
-Each Spartan child was put through the Agoge which trained them
physically and mentally for life on the battlefield

The composition of the Spartan Army:

-The Spartan army changed dramatically over time
-The original army was made up of only Spartiates in early times
-Later armies consisted of Spartiates, Helots and Perioeci
-Although the later Spartan armies consisted of other groups, it was
always lead by Spartans.

The Spartan army was the best in Greece

-They were responsible for protecting the extensive territory under their
-To secure their borders, they made treaties with all Peloponnesian states,
except Achaea and Argos.
-Sparta became the leader of the Peloponnesian League, which ensured
the loyalty of all Sparta's neighbours.

Hoplite Phalanx.
- The hoplite phalanx was the main style of infantry used by the Spartans,
- It consisted of special armour and weapons; mostly bronze body armour
and helmets, bronze shin guards and carried shields.
-Their primary weapons were a short sword for close quarter fighting and
an 8-15 foot long spear.

Entire Spartan

4 files of 8 men
4 Enomatia
2 Pemtekostys
4 Lochos
5 -6 mora

Equal to

Number approx.

2.6 Control of the Helots, Military, Syssitian and Kryptea:

Ephors waged war on the Helots annually.
-This was aimed to show the Helots that rebellious behaviour will be
-Targeted Helots who stood out for their physique and strength.
-Unlikely that they murdered indiscriminately, More likely that the
removed Helots which were causing trouble.

Kryptea were a secret body of police, composed of popular men from the
Eiren class.
-Were at the disposal of the Ephors
-Plutarch claims that these young men were dispatched into the
countryside equipped with daggers and basic rations.
-During the day, they would hide in obscure spots in order to rest.
-At night they would make their way through the fields, killing Helots who
stood out.
-Membership to the Krypteia may have been part of a series of initiations
that a young man had to pass during the Agoge before reaching manhood.

2.8 Educational system, Agoge:

The aim of the Spartan education system was to produce prompt
obedience to authority,
-Spartiates were required to endure pain, hardship and courage in battle.
-The poet Tyrtaeus states: "The only quality in a man worth admiring was
Stage 1:
- Ten day old baby examined by council of elders for any deformity. If
considered deformed, left on the slopes of Mt Taygetus to die
- Young children brought up by nurses, not mothers
- Not spoilt, ate simple food, taught to be left alone or in the dark
Stage 2:
- Removed from the home at age 7 and placed in barracks under the care
of the state
- Paidonomos had absolute authority over boys and punished them if they
-Young boys called Eirens carried whips and punished boys who behaved
-Platoon activities were organised by prefects or platoon captains.
-Object of this stage was to develop the boys physical strength and teach

Stage 3:
- From ages 12-18 years, education became more disciplined and harsh.
-Boys were only allowed to wear one garment.
-Slept on bed made out of rushes.
-Given little to eat in order to teach them to rely on themselves to obtain
-Encouraged to steal but, if caught, would be dishonoured, punished and
given less rations.
-Started taking part in various contests and competitions.

Stage 4:
- From ages 18-20 years, young men became eirens and could become
prefects of platoons.
-Their role was to train the boys and make sensible judgments.
-Eirens would punish any boy who could not answer sensibly, briefly and
coherently by biting them on the thumb.
-The Eirens were watched by the men and could be rebuked if they were
too soft or harsh in their punishments.

Stage 5:
- From ages 20-24 years, young men were not fully qualified soldiers but
could be called upon to fight if necessary.
-This was physically a tough stage.
-Had to show obedience and loyalty to Sparta.
-Could technically marry at 20 but still had to live in the barracks and not
set up a household.

Stage 6:
- From ages 24-30, men were full time soldiers and could fight on the front

Stage 7:
- After the age of 30, men became citizens and soldiers.
-They became members of the Ecclesia and could stand for position of
-Able to set up a household.
-Still had meals at syssitian.
-Could let their hair grow indicated physical vigour.
-Were liable for military service until age 60.

Education of Spartan girls

-Plutarch stated that the education of Spartan girls was aimed at
producing "healthy bodies so that the fruit they conceived might take
firmer root and find better growth"
- Although girls lived at home, they were organised into bands similar to
the boys.
-Girls participated in exercises with the boys, including javelin, running,
wrestling, and throwing discus.

2.9 Role and status of Spartan women:

A great deal of speculation surrounds the treatment and responsibilities of

Spartan women
-Spartan women lived a more open like with fewer restraints then other
women in Ancient Greece.
-They were not warriors like men; however their upbringing was just as
strenuous as the men.
-Spartan women were not citizens; however they played important roles in
Spartan society.

Unlike other Greek women, Spartan women had better living conditions
and more rights.
-Spartan women were well fed and supported by the Helots who worked
their land
-Publically educated, the state believed that each Spartan should be
-Spartan women were encouraged to be athletic and active.
-Married at a later age and were known for their outspoken nature.
-They could act without male supervision.

-Spartan women had one main role, to produce fit and healthy children
-They transmitted Spartan values to their children, including bravery,
courage, obedience and discipline.
-Spartan mothers shamed or even killed sons who were cowards in battle.

-Spartan women could inherit property from their fathers if they did not
have any male heir, and could control it as they wished
-Extremely rich women have been discovered, owning multiple plots of
-Aristotle claims that women controlling Spartan land was a sign of
weakness within the society.
-Spartan women owned up to 2/5th of Spartan land at the decline of

3. The Economy:
3.1 Land Ownership, agriculture, Kleroi, Helots:

Each Spartiate was a full time solider and was given a basic allotment of
land called a Kleros
-Each Spartiate was given a small number of Helots to farm this land

-Kleroi was given to Spartiates at birth by the Ephors if the child proved to
be fit and healthy.
-Each Kleroi was farmed by the Helots to provide:
o Food the Spartiate could contribute to the Syssitian
o Support for the families of the Spartiate
o a surplus of food so the Spartiate could trade the Perioeci for
weapons and armour
o Support for the Helots and their families.

Spartan land was extremely fertile and produced an abundance of crops.

Despite allotments being distributed to all Spartans, there was never

equality in the land
-The amount of land owned by each Spartiate varied considerably
-Some land was owned by an individual and could be handed down
-Some Spartiates married heiresses so they could increase the size of their
-Some land was less fertile then other land

3.2 Technology, Weapons and armour:

Although it is widely believed that the Spartiates were highly efficient

craftsmen, The Perioeci were employed as the artisans for the state.
- They carried out the manufacturing of the large scale mining and
-Their most important role was to manufacture weapons and armour for
the Spartans.
-Iron was used for creating shields and Bronze was used for weapons and

Sparta was famous for its bronze metal

-Spartans used bronze for weapons, helmets, ornaments and figures
-Originally manufactures by Spartan Artisans
-As Sparta progressed, the role of manufacturing weapons and art was
given to the Perioeci.
-The Perioeci often traded with other Greek cities and Spartan art was
extremely famous throughout the Greek world.

3.4 Economic exchange, use of Iron Bars, Trade:

One of Lycurgus's reforms was the removal of coinage from Sparta

-This he implemented this to stop many forms of crime
-Iron bars were heavy and hard to conceal, making it hard to steal
-It was very hard for Spartans to transport large amounts of iron to
different places, to stop Spartans depending on money
-Keep other Greeks out of Sparta.

The Perioeci however were allowed to trade with other Greek City Sates
-They exported Spartan art and statues
-Were allowed to trade with coinage
-Were responsible for any exports out of Sparta.

4. Religion, Death and Burial:

4.1 Gods and Goddesses: Artemis Orthia, Poseidon, Apollo:

Artemis Orthia
-was an extremely significant goddess to the Spartans
-Associated with Childbirth
-Religions festivals honouring Artemis Orthia included boys running
between the Temple of Artemis Orthia and the Altar to snatch
cheese from the altar while being whipped along the way.
-Many archaeological evidence, figurines, statues and lead figures
have been found around the Temple

-God of the sea
-Had a temple in Sparta near Taenaron
-According to Mythology, Heracles entered the underworld for the
last of his 12 tasks at this altar
-Believed to be the entrance to the three headed dog, Cerberus

-The festival Hyakinthia was held each year to honour Apollo and his
- Statue was found in the sanctuary of Amyclae where Apollo is
armed with a bow and a Spear, showing his war like nature

4.2 Myths and Legends:


-Two legendary twins, thought to be offspring of the Zeus and Leda,
King Tyndareos' consort.
-Two brothers, Kastor and Polydeukes
-At a Festival in Sparta, Kastor was killed and Zeus takes Polydeukes
to mount Olympus
-Polydeukes doesn't wish to live as an immortal on Mt. Olympus
without his brother
-Zeus then brings Kastor back to life every second day to spend
with his brother

4.3 Spartan Festivals, Hyakinthia - Gymnopedia - Karneia:

Spartans had 9 major festivals in honour of the gods each year

-Festivals would take prescience over all matters, even in war
-Sparta only sent 300 men to stop the Persians invading due to a
festival which was occurring at the same time

The Hyakinthia was a festival held around early June each year
-Held in the town of Amyclae
-Held in honour of the lover of Apollo who was killed when he was
accidently stuck by Apollo's discus
-Part of the festival was the honouring of Apollo which is Sparta's
main god
-There were choirs of boys, lyres and lute musicians and chariot
races took place.

Karneia was probably held around August

-Believed to be a harvest festival for the sons of Heracles and the
founding of Sparta
-Believes to also include celebration of military success and
-People carried model rafts were are thought to represent the sons
of Heracles coming to Laconia
-a major part of the festival was a race, it included one young
married man ran as older unmarried men chased him

Gymnopeaedia is a festival held in July

-Considered an endurance competition where running and dancing
in the sun was considered a test of strength.
-Initiation rite for young boys entering a life of physical excellence.
-Main focus was on physical perfection with many athletic
competitions and some see it as part of the whole warrior code to
introduce boys into the world of men
-Not only a Spartan movement, was recognised as a Dorian festival
and other city states had Gymnopaedias of their own.

4.4 Religion Roles of Kings:

The kings carried out sacrifices for all of Sparta

-Their sacrifices went to their respective god, either Zeus Uramois or
Zeus Lacelamon
-They carried out sacrifices on behalf of the city on the first and
seventh days of the month
-Carried out sacrifices in the Temple of Apollo
-Kings performed sacrifices for the following events:
o Annual festivals
o Prior to leaving for war
o Before crossing their frontier

They kings appointed four sacred envoys to the Delphic oracle

-Any prophecies were the responsibility of the Kings

4.5 Funerary Customs and Rituals:

Unlike other Greek states, the Spartans buried their dead inside the
city walls.

-However the kings were buried outside the walls because it was
though safer if the spirit of the dead king was removed from close
association with the lving
-They bured their dead inside the city walls because the Spartan
government wish to remove any superstition or fear about the dead
and afterlife

5. Cultural Life:
5.1 Art, Sculpture, painted vases, bone and ivory carving:

Until recently, it was widely believed that there was a golden age of
Spartan culture during the 7th Century
-However modern evidence shows that Spartan culture peaked
around the 6th century
-After the Messenian wars, the Spartans had less time to spend on
cultural pursuits
-Spartans became more miliataristic and there was little time for
activities that did not contribute to its goals

-A school of sculpture operated and Sparta was a major producer of
Bronze statuettes.
-Laconian bronze sculptures were highly valued throughout the
Ancient world.
-Some Laconian bronzes were found at Delphi, Olympia and outside
mainland Greece
-Sculptures in stone and marble were mostly associated with
religious decorations.

-An original style of ceramics was developed and was exported
around the Mediterranean originating from the Laconian area.
-Laconian potter appeared featuring human subjexts and told a
-A vase known as the Arcesules Cup was unique since it depicted a
contemporary scene.

Ivory Carving:
- Ivory and bone carving was frequently used by skilled craftsmen
throughout Laconia.
-Ivory cavings such as hair combs and animal figurines have been
discovered at the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia.

5.2 Architecture:

-The temple of Mnelaion is situated 5km south of Sparta at Amyclae
on Mount Parnon
-Catling excavated a small settlement which proved to be the innter
centre of the palace of King Menelaus, dating back to the archaic
-A small shrime was discovered which was made of porous stone

Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia:

-created in 900 BC
-only remaining signs of settlement that remain are a small open
altar with layers of stone
-The temple is believed to be destroyed by flood in the early 6th
-It was rebuilt shortly after the flood in Archais style and was
composed of cella and pronoas with Doric columns

The Amyklaoin:
-Walls surround the sanctuary at Amyclae and a circular alter and
evidence of foundations have been excavated at the site
-The throne of Apollo has been discovered at the site
-The sanctuary appears to be of Doric and Ionic style

5.3 Writing and Literature: Alcman and Tyrtaeus:

Sparta had little need for sophisticated writing techniques, because

their society was based around strong oral traditions
-History was recorded in songs, poems and its festivals
-Sparta's poetry and music was closely linked
-Work of most poets was intended for recitation by groups or singing
-There were songs of - Praise - Battle songs - Drinking songs Political songs - songs of consolation
-Most of the surviving written sources about Sparta was produced
by non-Spartans
-Poepl were only exposed to a glimse of the Austere society

-Appears to have come from Sardis in Lydia
-Active in 7th Century BC
-Works were arranged into 6 books and were written in Doric dialect
-One of the most important outcomes of his works were introducing
new information on the lives of Spartan Women
-Best known for his maiden songs, Choruses to be sung and danced
to and songs for gods and goddesses at religious festivals
-Wide range of matter, wrote about Laconian heroes to Odysseus
and tales for Homer

-Wrote around the period shortly after the Second Messenian war
-Plato calls Tyrtaeus an "Athenian who became a Spartan"

-Writes about Hoplite warfare and is our earliest source on Spartan

-Homeric vocabulary; "no more that a score of words from his works
are not found in Homer"
-Tyrtaeus depicts war without glamour, claims it is a crim business
which changes peoples personalities and perspectives
-Encourages solders to display courage
-Claims "the only trait in a man worth admiring is courage"
5.4 Greek writers:

5th Century BC

Asia Minor


5th Century BC



4th Century BC

lived in





4th Century


Wrote mainly
about spartas
foreign policy
and the
Wrote about roles
and freedoms of
Did not write
about Spartan
life, but
Spartans forieng
policy. While he
did not write
favourably about
Sparta, he was
impressed by
their eunomia
Gives information
about Sparta's
military system,
their social
including laws
instituted by
Spartans and
their system
Admired the
Spartan system
and praised its
order, austerity
and stability


1st century AD



2nd Century

Asia Minor

austerity and
stability but
criticised the
system of land
ownership and
attributed the
downfall to
Gave a complete
account of the
constitution and
praised all
Made reference
to the Spartan
death and

6. Everyday Life:

6.1 Daily life and leisure activities:

Spartiates were full time warriors unlike the farmer soliders of

-Depended on Perioeci and Helots for total support of the Spartiates
-A system developed so each social class of the Spartan Society had
their own role

Spartiates had a lot of Leisure time because they had the Helots to
provide produce and word the lands for them
-Leisure activites included:
+Excercising to keep fir and healthy
+Hunting as a sport and as a means to contribute to the syssitian
+Chariot racing and horse races

Women also had leisure time because their only responsibilities

were childbirth and participation at yearly religion festivals

6.2 Food and Clothing:

The Helots grew food for Sparta

-Spartiate boys were fed sparing ly and kept hungry to oncourage
them to steal food
-The Spartans enjoyed a wide varity of food, including; wheat,
barley, olives, vegetables, fruit, pigs, goats, sheep and poultry

Each month, Spartiates had to contribute food to the syssitia.

-Members contributed a medirans of Barley meal, 8 cloes of wine, 5
minos of cheese, 5 and a half minos of figs and a small amount of
meat and fish
-The Spartan diet was considered to be plain and austere

Spartan women wore a short peplos

-This garment was tied on at the shoulders but was not sewn down
the sides
-Designed so women could exercise freely
-Dress was unique to Sparta
-Accordng to Plutarch on Lycurgus, Women were not allowed to
wearmake up, jewellery, perfume or dye their cloths

Boys often exercised naked.

-They were given one cloak per year and they were forced to go
bare footed in order to toughen their feet and make them more
adverse to accept pain and discomfort
-During wartime, men wore long red cloaks and curled their hair
6.4 Occupations:

-Full time soldiers
-Government officials

-Agricultural workers
-Domestic sevants

-Industry workers