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Spartan army 1

Spartan army
"Military history of Sparta" redirects here. For other uses, see Military history of Sparta (disambiguation).
The Spartan army stood at the centre of the Spartan state, whose
citizens' primary obligation was to be good soldiers.[1] Subject to
military drill from infancy, the Spartans were one of the most feared
military forces in world history. At the height of Sparta's power
between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE it was commonly accepted
that, "one Spartan was worth several men of any other state."

The iconic army was first coined by the philosopher Lycurgus.[2] In his
famous quote of Sparta having a "wall of men, instead of bricks", he
proposed to create a military-focused lifestyle reformation in the
Spartan society in accordance to proper virtues such as equality,
austerity, strength, and fitness. A Spartan man's involvement with the
army began in infancy when he was inspected by the Gerousia. If the
baby was found to be weak, he was left at Mount Taygetus to die.
Those deemed strong were then put in the agoge at the age of seven.
Under the agoge the young boys or Spartiates were kept under intense
and rigorous military training but they had to put up with it. Their
education focused primarily on sports and war tactics, but also
Statue by the British Archaeological School in
included poetry, music, academics, and sometimes politics. Those who 1920 to commemorate King Leonidas I, who led
passed the agoge by the age of 30 were given full Spartan citizenship. the Spartan army at the Battle of Thermopylae.

The term "spartan" became synonymous with multiple meanings such

as: fearlessness, harsh and cruel life, bland and lacking creativity, or simplicity by design.[3]


Mycenaean age
The first reference to the Spartans at war is in the Iliad, where they participate among the other Greek contingents.
Like the rest of the Mycenaean army it was composed largely of infantry, equipped with short swords, spears, Dypon
(or Dipylon, an 8-shaped shield) and a simple rounded bronze shield. This was an age of heroic warfare with simple
tactics, often little more than a general charge and a great deal of killingit was common for entire armies to be
chased down and killed after a rout. The basic tactic of battle was "free for all".
War chariots were used by the elite, but unlike their counterparts in the Middle East, they appear to have been used
for transport, with the warrior dismounting to fight on foot and then remounting it to withdraw from combat,
although some accounts show warriors throwing their spear from the chariot before dismounting.[4]
Spartan army 2

Archaic Age and expansion

Mycenaean Sparta, like much of Greece, was soon engulfed in the Dorian
invasions, which ended the Mycenaean civilization and ushered in the so-called
"Greek Dark Ages". During this time, Sparta (or Lacedaemon) was merely a
Doric village on the banks of the river Eurotas in Laconia. However, in the early
8th century BC, Spartan society was transformed. The reforms, which were
ascribed by later tradition to the possibly mythical figure of Lycurgus, created
new institutions and established the military nature of the Spartan state.[5] This
"constitution of Lycurgus" would remain unchanged in its essence for the next
five centuries. From ca. 750 BC, Sparta embarked on a steady expansion, first by
subduing Amyclae and the other settlements of Laconia, and later, in the First
Messenian War, conquering the fertile country of Messenia. By the beginning of
the 7th century BC, Sparta was, along with Argos, the dominant power in the
Peloponnese. Marble statue of a helmed hoplite
(5th century BC), possibly Leonidas
(Archaeological Museum of Sparta,
Establishment of Spartan hegemony over the Peloponnese Greece)

Inevitably, the two powers collided. Initial Argive successes, such as the victory
at the Battle of Hysiai in 669 BC, led to an uprising of the Messenians, which tied down the Spartan army for almost
20 years.[6] Over the course of the 6th century BC, Sparta secured her control of the Peloponnese peninsula: Arcadia
was forced to recognize Spartan overlordship, Argos lost Cynuria (the SE coast of the Peloponnese) in ca. 546 and
suffered a further crippling blow by Cleomenes I at Sepeia in 494, while repeated expeditions against tyrannical
regimes throughout Greece greatly raised their prestige.[7] By the early 5th century BC, Sparta was left the
unchallenged master in southern Greece, as the leading power (hegemon) of the newly established Peloponnesian
League (which was more characteristically known to its contemporaries as "the Lacedaemonians and their allies").[8]

Persian and Peloponnesian Wars

By the late 6th century BC, Sparta was recognized as the preeminent
Greek city-state. King Croesus of Lydia established an alliance with
the Spartans, and later, the Greek cities of Asia Minor appealed to
them for help during the Ionian Revolt. In the second Persian invasion
of Greece, under Xerxes, Sparta was assigned the overall leadership of
Greek forces on land and at sea. Because of this, the Spartans played a
crucial role in the repulsion of the invasion, notably at the battles of
Thermopylae and Plataea. In the aftermath, however, the plottings of
Pausanias with the Persians and the unwillingness of the Spartans to
campaign too far from home, meant that they withdrew into a relative
isolation, leaving the rising power of Athens to assume the reins of the
continued effort against the Persians. This isolationist tendency was Greek hoplite besting a Persian, on the tondo of a
further reinforced by the revolts of some of her allies and a great kylix drinking cup from the 5th century BC
earthquake in 464, which was followed by a large scale revolt of the (National Archaeological Museum of Athens)

Messenian helots.

The parallel rise of Athens to a major power in Greece led inevitably to friction with Sparta, and to two large-scale
conflicts, (the First and Second Peloponnesian Wars), which devastated Greece. Sparta suffered several defeats
Spartan army 3

during these wars, including, for the first time, the surrender of an entire Spartan unit at Sphacteria in 425 BC, but
ultimately emerged victorious, primarily through the aid it received from the Persians. Under its admiral Lysander,
the Persian-funded Peloponnesian fleet captured the cities of the Athenian alliance, and a decisive naval victory at
Aegospotami forced Athens to capitulate. The Athenian defeat left Sparta in a dominant position in Greece, and
Sparta finally gained primacy due to its military forces.

End of hegemony
For more details on this topic, see Spartan hegemony.
Spartan ascendancy did not last long. By the end of the 5th century BC, Sparta had suffered serious casualties in the
Peloponnesian Wars, and its conservative and narrow mentality soon alienated many of its erstwhile allies. At the
same time, its military class - the Spartiates - was in decline due to several factors. First was attrition through the
increasingly frequent wars Sparta had found itself embroiled from the mid-5th century. Since Spartiates were
required to marry late, birth rates remained low making it difficult to replace losses from the class. To exacerbate this
problem, it was possible to be demoted from Spartiate status for a number of reasons such as cowardice in battle or
the inability to pay for membership in the syssitia. Inability to pay became such an increasingly severe problem
because commercial activity had started to develop in Sparta. Some Spartiates would be obliged to sell the land from
which they were supposed to draw their earnings. As Lacedaemon constitution included no provisions for promotion
to Spartiate caste, numbers gradually dwindled away.
As Sparta's military power waned, Thebes repeatedly challenged its authority. The ensuing Corinthian War led to the
humiliating Peace of Antalcidas that destroyed Sparta's reputation as the protector of the independence of Greek
city-states. At the same time, the Spartan military prestige suffered a severe blow when a mora of 600 men was
decimated by peltasts (light troops) under the command of the Athenian general Iphicrates. Spartan authority finally
collapsed after its disastrous defeat at the Battle of Leuctra by the Thebans commanded by Epaminondas in 371 BC.
The battle, in which large numbers of Spartiates were killed, resulted in the loss of the fertile Messenia region, .

Later history
Henceforth, Sparta was reduced to the status of a third-rate power, and retreated into isolation. The Spartans were
famously the only Greek state not to participate in Alexander the Great's campaign against Persia, so that, when
Alexander sent back 300 Persian cuirasses captured at Granicus, he inscribed on them:
Alexander son of Philip, and the Greeks except the Spartans from the barbarians living in Asia[9]
During the absence of Alexander in the East Agis III revolted, but was defeated. After Alexander's death, Sparta
again became involved, as an independent state, in the many wars of the 3rd century. Under the reformist kings Agis
IV and Cleomenes III, it enjoyed a short-lived revival, scoring successes against the Achaean League, before the
final defeat in the Battle of Sellasia. The last Spartan resurgence occurred under Nabis, but following Sparta's defeat
in the War against Nabis, the city was incorporated into the Achaean League in 189 BC. This marked the end of
Sparta as an independent power, thereafter coming under Roman rule, although retaining the status of an
autonomous city.

Army organization

Social structure
Spartan army 4

"...the allies of the Lacedaemonians were offended at Agesilaus, because... they themselves [provided] so many [soldiers], and the
Lacedaemonians, whom they followed, so few.... Agesilaus, wishing to refute their argument with numbers... ordered all the allies to sit
down by themselves promiscuously, the Lacedaemonians apart by themselves. Then his herald called upon the potters to stand up first, and
after them the smiths, next, the carpenters in their turn, and the builders, and so on through all the handicrafts. In response, almost all the
allies rose up, but not a man of the Lacedaemonians; for they were forbidden to learn or practice a manual art. Then Agesilaus said with a
laugh: 'You see, O men, how many more soldiers than you we are sending out.'"

Plutarch, The Life of Agesilaus, 26

The Spartan people (the "Lacedaemonians") were divided in three classes: Full citizens, known as the Spartiates
proper, or Hmoioi ("equals" or peers), who received a grant of land (klros or klros, "lot") for their military
service. The second class were the Perioeci (the "dwellers nearby"), free non-citizens, generally merchants,
craftsmen and sailors, who were used as light infantry and on auxiliary roles on campaign. The third and most
numerous class were the Helots, state-owned serfs used to farm the Spartiate klros. By the 5th century BC, the
helots too were used as light troops in skirmishes. The Spartiates were the core of the Spartan army: they
participated in the Assembly (Apella) and provided the hoplites in the army. Indeed, they were supposed to be
soldiers and nothing else, being forbidden to learn and exercise any other trade. To a large degree, the necessity for
the constant war footing of the Spartan society was the need to keep the vastly more numerous helots subdued.[11]
One of the major problems of the later Spartan society was the steady decline in fully enfranchised citizens, which
also meant a decline in available military manpower: the number of Spartiates decreased from 6,000 in 640 BC to
1,000 in 330 BC. The Spartans were therefore forced to use helot hoplites, and occasionally they freed some of the
Laconian helots, the neodamdeis (the "newly enfranchised"), and gave them land to settle in exchange for military
The Spartiate population was subdivided into age groups. The youngest at 20 were counted as weaker due to lack of
experience, and the oldest, up to 60 or in a crisis 65, were only called up in an emergency, to defend the baggage

Tactical structure
The principal source for the organization of the Spartan Army is
Xenophon, who admired the Spartans and whose Constitution of
Sparta offers a detailed overview of the Spartan state and society at the
beginning of the 4th century BC. Other authors, notably Thucydides,
also provide information, but it is not always as reliable as Xenophon's
first-hand accounts.[13]

Little is known of the earlier organisation, and much is left open to

speculation. The earliest form of social and military organization
(during the 7th century BC) seems to have been the three tribes
(phylai: the Pamphyloi, Hylleis and Dymanes), who appear in the
Second Messenian War (685668 BC). A further subdivision was the
"fraternity" (phratra), of which 27, or nine per tribe, are recorded.[14]
Eventually this system was replaced by five territorial divisions, the
obai ("villages"), which supplied a lochos of ca. 1,000 men each.[15] Spartan helmet on display at the British Museum.
The helmet has been damaged and the top has
This system was still used during the Persian Wars, as implied by
sustained a blow, presumably from a battle.
references to the lochoi made by Herodotus in his history.[16]

The changes that occurred between the Persian and the Peloponnesian Wars are not documented, but according to
Thucydides, at Mantinea in 418 BC there were 7 lochoi present, each subdivided into four pentekostyes of 128 men,
which were further subdivided into four enmotiai of 32 men, giving a total of 3,584 men for the main Spartan
Spartan army 5

army.[17] By the end of the Peloponnesian War, the structure had evolved further, both to address the shortages in
manpower and to create a more flexible system that allowed the Spartans to send smaller detachments on campaign
or to garrisons outside their homeland.[18] According to Xenophon, the basic Spartan unit remained the enmotia,
with 36 men in three files of twelve under an enmotarches.[19] Two enmotiai formed a pentkostys of 72 men
under a pentkontr, and two pentkostyai were grouped into a lochos of 144 men under a lochagos. Four lochoi
formed a mora of 576 men under a polemarchos, the largest single tactical unit of the Spartan army.[20] Six morai
composed the Spartan army on campaign, to which were added the Skiritai and the contingents of allied states.

The kings and the hippeis or

The full army was nominally led in battle by the two kings; initially, both
went on campaign, but after the 6th century BC only one, with the other
remaining at home. Unlike other states, their authority was severely
circumscribed; actual power rested with the five elected ephoroi. The kings
were accompanied by a select group of 300 men as a royal guard, who were
termed hippeis ("cavalrymen"). Despite their title, they were infantry hoplites
like all Spartiatai. Indeed, the Spartans did not utilize a cavalry of their own
until late into the Peloponnesian War, when small units of 60 cavalrymen
were attached to each mora. The hippeis belonged to the first mora and were
the elite of the Spartan army, being deployed on the honorary right side of the
Areus I, a Spartan king during the
battle line .[21] They were selected every year by specially commissioned
Chremonidean War, on a coin (310266
officials [22] [23] , the hippagretai, from among experienced men who had BC)
sons, so that their line would continue.[16]

For more details on this topic, see Agoge.

" ,
, ."
"Go tell the Spartans, thou that passest by, that here,
obedient to their laws, we lie."
Simonides of Ceos, Epitaph on the burial mound of the Spartans who fell at Thermopylae

At first, in the archaic period of 700600 BC, education for both sexes was, as in most Greek states, centred on the
arts, with the male citizen population later receiving military education. However, from the 6th century onwards, the
military character of the state became more pronounced, and education was totally subordinated to the needs of the
Both boys and girls were brought up by the city women until the age of seven, when boys (paidia) were taken from
their mothers and grouped together in "packs" (agelai) and were sent to what is almost equivalent to present-day
military boot camp. This military camp was known as the Agoge. They became inured to hardship, being provided
with scant food and clothing; this also encouraged them to steal, and if they were caught, they were punished not
for stealing, but for being caught. There is a characteristic story, told by Plutarch: "The boys make such a serious
matter of their stealing, that one of them, as the story goes, who was carrying concealed under his cloak a young fox
which he had stolen, suffered the animal to tear out his bowels with its teeth and claws, and died rather than have his
theft detected."[26] The boys were encouraged to compete against one another in games and mock fights and to foster
an esprit de corps. In addition, they were taught to read and write and learned the songs of Tyrtaios, that celebrated
Spartan exploits in the Second Messenian War. They learned to read and write not for cultural reasons, but so they
Spartan army 6

could be able to read military maps.[27] At the age of twelve, a boy was classed as a "youth" (meirakion). His
physical education was intensified, discipline became much harsher, and the boys were loaded with extra tasks. The
youths had to go barefoot, and were dressed only in a tunic both in summer and in winter.
Adulthood was reached at the age of 18, and the young adult (eiren) initially served as a trainer for the boys. At the
same time, the most promising youths were included in the Krypteia. At 20, Spartans became eligible for military
service and joined one of the messes (syssitia), which included 15 men of various ages.[28] Those who were rejected
retained a lesser form of citizenship, as only the soldiers were ranked among the homoioi. However, even after that,
and even during marriage and until about the age of 30, they would spend most of their day in the barracks with their
unit. Military duty lasted until the 60th year, but there are recorded cases of older people participating in campaigns
in times of crisis.
Throughout their adult lives, the Spartiates continued to be subject to a training regime so strict that, as Plutarch
says, "...they were the only men in the world with whom war brought a respite in the training for war."[29] Bravery
was the ultimate virtue for the Spartans: Spartan mothers would give their sons the shield with the words "[Return]
With it or [carried] on it!" ( ),[30] that is to say, either victorious or dead, since in battle, the heavy
hoplite shield would be the first thing a fleeing soldier would be tempted to abandon - rhipsaspia, "dropping the
shield", was a synonym for desertion in the field.

The army on campaign

For more details on this topic, see Phalanx formation.
Like the armies of the other Greek states, the Spartan army was an
infantry-based army that fought using the Phalanx formation. The
Spartans themselves did not introduce any significant changes or
tactical innovations in hoplite warfare, but their constant drill and
superb discipline made their phalanx much more cohesive and
effective. The Spartans employed the phalanx in the classical style in a Modern reconstruction of a phalanx advancing in
close ranks.
single line, uniformly deep in files of 8 to 12 men. When fighting
alongside their allies, the Spartans would normally occupy the
honorary right flank. If, as usually happened, the Spartans achieved victory on their side, they would then wheel left
and roll up the enemy formation.[31]

During the Peloponnesian War, engagements became more fluid, light troops became increasingly used and tactics
evolved to meet them, but in direct confrontations between two opposing phalanxes, stamina and "pushing ability"
were what counted. It was only when the Thebans, under Epaminondas increased the depth of a part of their
formation at the Battle of Leuctra that the Spartan phalanx broke.

On the march
According to Xenophon, the army was mobilized by the ephors, and after a series of religious ceremonies and
sacrifices, the army assembled and set out.[32] The army proceeded led by the king, with the skiritai and cavalry
detachments acting as an advance guard and scouting parties.[33] The necessary provisions (barley, cheese, onions
and salted meat) were carried along with the army, and each Spartan was accompanied by a helot manservant.[34]
Each mora marched and camped separately, with its own baggage train.[35] Sacrifice was given every morning and
before battle by the king and the officers; if the omens were not favourable, a pious leader might refuse to march or
to engage the enemy.[36] The only people who could have a gravestone were women who died in child birth and
warriors who died in battle; both were considered lives given for the state.
Spartan army 7

Clothing, arms and armor

The Spartans used the same typical hoplite equipment as the other Greek neighbors; the only distinctive Spartan
features were the crimson tunic (chitn) and cloak (himation),[37] and long hair, which the Spartans retained to a far
later date than most Greeks. To the Spartans, long hair retained its older Archaic meaning as the symbol of a free
man; to the other Greeks, by the 5th century, its peculiar association with the Spartans had come to signify
pro-Spartan sympathies.[38] Another widely known Spartan symbol, adopted in the 420s BC, was the letter lambda
(), standing for Laconia or Lacedaemon, which was painted on the Spartans' shields.[39] Shields were of such great
importance in the Spartan army that while losing a sword and a spear was an exception, to lose a shield was a sign of
disgrace. Not only does it protect the user, but it also protects the whole phalanx formation. To come home without
the shield was the mark of a deserter, rhipsaspia or "dropping the shield", was a synonym for desertion in the field.
Mothers bidding farewell to their sons would encourage them to come back with their shields, often saying goodbyes
like "Son, either with this or on this" ( ).[40][41] Spartan hoplites were often depicted bearing a
transverse horsehair crest on their helmet, which was possibly used to identify officers.[42]
In the Archaic period, Spartans were armored with flanged bronze
cuirasses, leg greaves, and a helmet, often of the Corinthian type. It is
often disputed which torso armor the Spartans wore during the Persian
Wars, though it seems likely they either continued to wear bronze
cuirasses of a more sculptured type, or instead had adopted the
linothrax. During the later 5th century BC, when warfare had become
more flexible and full-scale phalanx confrontations became rarer, the
Greeks abandoned most forms of body armor. The Lacedaemonians
Modern composite of a hoplite in the 4th century
also adopted a new tunic, the exmis, which could be arranged so that
BC. Wearing a Thracian helmet, muscle cuirass
with leather fringes, and greaves, he is equipped it left the right arm and shoulder uncovered and free for action in
with a spear (dory), the xiphos and the hoplite combat.[43] The Spartan's main weapon was the Doru. For long range,
shield (aspis). they carried a javelin.

The Spartiats was always armed with a xiphos as a secondary

weapon. Among most Greek warriors, this weapon had an iron blade of about 60 centimetres, however, the Spartan
version was typically only 30-45 centimetres. The Spartan's shorter weapon proved deadly in the crush caused by
colliding phalanxes formations it was capable of being thrust through gaps in the enemy's shield wall and armor,
where there was no room for longer weapons. The groin and throat were among the favorite targets. In one account,
an Athenian asked a Spartan why his sword was so short and after a short pause he replied, "It's long enough to reach
your heart." As an alternative to the xiphos, some Spartans selected the kopis as their secondary weapon. Unlike the
xiphos, which is a thrusting weapon, the kopis was a hacking weapon in the form of a thick, curved iron sword. In
Athenian art, Spartan hoplites were often depicted using a kopis instead of the xiphos, as the kopis was seen as a
quintessential "bad guys" weapon in Greek eyes.[44] Spartans trained in pankration, a famous martial art in Ancient
Greece that consisted of boxing and grappling. Spartans were so adept in pankration that, when it was inducted in the
Olympics, they were mostly forbidden to compete. The Spartans retained the traditional hoplite phalanx until the
reforms of Cleomenes III, when they were re-equipped with the Macedonian sarissa and trained in the style of the

During the Hellenistic period spartan equipment had evolved drastically. Since the early 5th century BC the pilos
helmet had became almost standard within the spartan army, being in use by the Spartans until the end of the
classical era.[45] Also after the 'Iphicratean reforms' peltasts became a much more common sight on the Greek
battlefield and themselves become more heavily armed. In response to Iphicrates victory over Sparta in 392 BC,
Spartan hoplites started abandoning body armour and eventually wore almost no armour apart from a shield, leg
greaves, helmet and a robe. In later periods Spartans did start to readopt armour, but on a much lesser scale than
during the Archaic period. Finally during 227BC, Cleomenes reforms introduced updated equipment to Sparta,
Spartan army 8

including the Macedonian sarissa (pike). However pike-men armed with the sarissa never outnumbered troops
equipped in the hoplite style. It was also in that time Sparta adopted its own cavalry and archers.

Philosophy, education and the Spartan code

For more details on this topic, see Laconic phrase.
Contrary to popular belief, Spartans valued knowledge and education as much as
the Athenians did.[46] Spartan philosophers include Lycurgus and Chilon of
Sparta. Although Athens has been praised as the "inventor" of democracy and
philosophy, Sparta often has been viewed in popular culture as a society
characterized by brutal, mindless discipline and merciless emphasis on physical
fitness, and as an example of an early communistic or socialistic society. Sparta,
however, had its own democratic government. Sparta also wasn't a
totalitarianism as many believed. In the Appella or Demos as early as 700 BC,
Spartans elect leaders and voted by range voting and shouting. Every male age
30 and above could participate. Aristotle called the Spartan electoral process
"childish" in contrast to the stone ballots cast by the Athenians. Sparta adopted
The Spartan philosopher Lycurgus,
its procedure for the sake of simplicity, and to prevent any bias voting, bribing,
from a series of marble reliefs
or cheating that was predominant in the early democratic elections.[47] depicting the great lawgivers of
history, at the chamber of the U.S.
The Spartan public education system, the agoge, trained the mind as well as the
House of Representatives
body. Spartans were not only literate, but admired for their intellectual culture
and poetry. Socrates said the "most ancient and fertile homes of philosophy
among the Greeks are Crete and Sparta, where are found more sophists than anywhere on earth."[48] Public education
was provided for girls as well as boys, and consequently literacy rate was higher in Sparta than in other Greek
city-states.[49] In education, sports was given the most emphasis in teaching.

Self-discipline, not kadavergehorsam (mindless obedience) was the goal of Spartan education. Sparta placed the
values of liberty, equality, and fraternity at the center of their ethical system. These values applied to every full
Spartan citizen, immigrant, merchant, and even to the helots, but not to the dishonored. Helots are unique in the
history of slavery in that unlike traditional slaves, they were allowed to keep and gain wealth. They could keep half
their agricultural produce and presumably sell it; thus accumulating wealth. There are known to have been some
occasions that a helot with enough money was allowed to purchase their freedom from the state.[50]
The Spartan hoplite followed a strict laconic code of honor. No soldier
was considered superior to another. Suicidal recklesness, berserkery,
and rage were prohibited in a Spartan army, as these behaviors
endangered the phalanx. Recklessness could lead to dishonor, as in the
case of Aristodemus.[51] Spartans regarded those who fight, while still
wishing to live, as more valorous than those who don't care if they die.
They believed that a warrior must not fight with raging anger, but with
calmed determination.[52] By the laconic way of life, Spartans must
walk without any noise, and speak only with few words. Other ways
for Spartans to be dishonored were dropping the shield (rhipsaspia),
failing to complete the training, and deserting in battle. Dishonored
Mythological scene inside a black-figure cup
Spartans were labeled outcasts, and were forced to wear different
(550540 BC) by the Spartan artist known as the
Rider Painter clothing for public humiliation. In battle, stories of valor were told to
inspire troops and, before a major confrontation, they sang soft songs
to calm the nerves.[53]
Spartan army 9

Spartan Navy
Throughout their history, the Spartans were a land based
force par excellence. During the Persian Wars, they
contributed a small navy of 20 triremes, and provided the
overall fleet commander, but they largely relied on their
allies, primarily the Corinthians, for naval power. This fact
meant that, when the Peloponnesian War broke out, the
Spartans were supreme on land, but the Athenians supreme
at sea. The Spartans repeatedly ravaged Attica, but the
Athenians kept being supplied by sea, and were able to
Model of a Greek trireme from the Deutsches Museum, Munich
stage raids of their own around the Peloponnese with their
navy. Eventually, it was the creation of a navy that enabled
Sparta to overcome Athens. With Persian gold, Lysander, appointed navarch in 407 BC, was able to master a strong
navy, and successfully challenge and destroy Athenian predominance in the Aegean Sea. The Spartan engagement
with the sea would be short-lived, however, and did not survive the turmoils of the Corinthian War: in the Battle of
Cnidus of 394 BC, the Spartan navy was decisively defeated by a joint Athenian-Persian fleet, marking the end of
Sparta's brief naval supremacy. The final blow would be given 20 years later, at the Battle of Naxos in 376 BC. A
small fleet was periodically maintained thereafter, but its effectiveness was limited; the last revival of Spartan naval
power was under Nabis, who, with aid from his Cretan allies, created a fleet to control the Laconian coastline.

The fleet was commanded by navarchs, who were appointed for a strictly one-year term, and apparently could not be
reappointed. The admirals were subordinated to the vice-admiral, called epistoleus. This position is seemingly
independent of the one-year term clause, because it was used, in 405 B.C. to give Lysander command of the fleet
after he was already an admiral for a year. Their helmets were made of bronze or silver and the plume was made of
horse hair.
Spartan army 10

Wars and battles

Messenian Wars Athenian War Corinthian War

First Messenian War Sybota Haliartus
Second Messenian War Potidaea Nemea
Chalcis Cnidus

Wars with Argos Rhium Coronea

Naupactus Lechaeum
Battle of Hysiae Mytilene
Battle of Sepeia Tanagra
Theban War
Pylos Leuctra
Persian Wars Sphacteria Second Mantinea
Thermopylae Amphipolis
Artemisium First Mantinea
Sicilian Expedition
Foreign War
Plataea Syme
Mycale Chremonidean War
Marathon Abydos
Notium Cleomenean War
Aegospotami Lycaeum

War against Nabis

Battle of Gythium
Spartan army 11

In popular culture
Main article: Sparta in popular culture
For more details on this topic, see Battle of Thermopylae in popular
The term "spartan" has become synonymous with fearlessness, harsh
and cruel life, bland and lacking creativity, or simplicity by design.
These characteristics is also derived from Spartan culture.
The Gates of Fire, a novel by Steven Pressfield, which provides a
gritty, first-person account of the Battle of Thermopylae from the
view of a Helot.
300, a graphic novel and a movie based on the graphic novel, both
interpreting the Battle of Thermopylae.
Many colleges and universities have the Spartan as a school mascot,
some of which include San Jose State University and Michigan
State University (see also Sparty, Michigan State's costumed
mascot). The Spartan South Midlands Football League is an English
football league named after them.
A Spartan cosplay during the DragonCon Parade
In the Halo universe, the SPARTAN program is a project designed
in Atlanta in 2007
to produce genetically augmented, power armored supersoldiers.
The SPARTANs serve as the protagonists of several works and as major characters in many others; the main
character of the Halo trilogy is John-117, a SPARTAN-II supersoldier, and the protagonist of Halo: Reach is
SPARTAN-B312, a SPARTAN-III supersoldier. Twice in the novel Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, companies of 300
SPARTAN-IIIs are sent against numerically superior Covenant forces and succeed in their objective, but suffer
almost 100% casualty rates, similar to the Battle of Thermopylae.
Kratos, the main protagonist in God of War is a legendary Spartan demigod warrior and hero who also served the
Spartan army as a high-ranking officer.
A number of military aircraft have been named after the Spartans, including the Alenia C-27J Spartan, C-27A
Spartan, and the Simmonds Spartan.
On Season 1 of the television program Deadliest Warrior, the Spartan defeated the Ninja while in Season 2, the
Spartan was brought back to defeat the Samurai.

Notes and references

[1] Connolly (2006), p. 38
[2] Plutarch, The Life of Lycurgus (written 75, trans. John Dryden 1683), The Internet Classics Archive (http:/ / classics. mit. edu/ index. html)
[3] Oxford Dictionary (http:/ / oxforddictionaries. com/ definition/ english/ spartan)
[4] Warry (2004), pp.1415
[5] Sekunda (1998), p. 4
[6] Sekunda (1998), pp.67
[7] Sekunda (1998), p. 7
[8] Connolly (2006), p. 11
[9] "The Genius of Alexander the Great", Nicholas G. Hammond, p. 69
[10] http:/ / penelope. uchicago. edu/ Thayer/ E/ Roman/ Texts/ Plutarch/ Lives/ Agesilaus*. html
[11] Connolly (2006), p. 39
[12] Sekunda (1998), pp.1617
[13] Connolly (2006), pp.3839
[14] Sekunda (1998), p. 13
[15] Sekunda (1998), p. 14
[16] Connolly (2006), p. 41
Spartan army 12

[17] Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War 5.68.2 (http:/ / www. perseus. tufts. edu/ cgi-bin/ ptext?doc=Perseus:text:1999. 01. 0200&
layout=& loc=5. 68. 2)
[18] Sekunda (1998), p. 15
[19] Until the late 5th century, however, each file seems to have had a depth of only 8 men. Connolly (2006), p. 40
[20] Connolly (2006), p. 40
[21] Herodotus Hist., Historiae Book 1, section 67, line 23

, ,
, ,
[22] . . . . Bekker Aneed. i, 209
[23] Timaeus Sophista Gramm., Lexicon Platonicum (e cod. Coislin. 345) Epistle-alphabetic letter alpha, page 971a, line 15

. <>. ' .
[24] Herodotus, 7.228.1 (http:/ / www. perseus. tufts. edu/ cgi-bin/ ptext?doc=Perseus:text:1999. 01. 0126& layout=& loc=7. 228. 1)
[25] Encyclopdia Britannica 15th Edition
[26] Plutarch, The Life of Lycurgus, 18.1 (http:/ / penelope. uchicago. edu/ Thayer/ E/ Roman/ Texts/ Plutarch/ Lives/ Lycurgus*. html)
[27] Sekunda (1998), pp.1011
[28] Sekunda (1998), p. 12
[29] Plutarch, The Life of Lycurgus, 22.2 (http:/ / penelope. uchicago. edu/ Thayer/ E/ Roman/ Texts/ Plutarch/ Lives/ Lycurgus*. html)
[30] Plutarch, Moralia, Sayings of Spartan Women 241.F (http:/ / penelope. uchicago. edu/ Thayer/ E/ Roman/ Texts/ Plutarch/ Moralia/
Sayings_of_Spartan_Women*. html#ref23)
[31] Sekunda (1998), p. 19
[32] Sekunda (1998), p. 17
[33] Sekunda (1998), p. 18
[34] Connolly (2006), p. 44
[35] Connolly (2006), pp.4647
[36] Connolly (2006), p. 47
[37] Sekunda (1998), p. 20
[38] Sekunda (1998), p. 24
[39] Sekunda (1998), p. 27; disputed by Campbell (2012)
[40] Spartan Quotes (http:/ / www. ancientgreekbattles. net/ Pages/ 47931_Spartaquotes. htm)
[41] History of the Spartan Shield (http:/ / www. strongblade. com/ prod/ sbne-300-spartanshield_hist. html)
[42] Sekunda (1986), pp.3 & 6
[43] Sekunda (1998), p. 21
[44] Spartan Weaponry (http:/ / www. ancientmilitary. com/ spartan-weapons. htm)
[45] http:/ / www. sparta. markoulakispublications. org. uk/ index. php?id=114
[46] Soriano (2005), pp.8485
[47] Full historical description of the Spartan government (http:/ / rangevoting. org/ SpartaBury. html)
[48] Plato, Protagoras, 343b:366.
[49] Soriano (2005), p. 85
[50] Cleomenes III in 223/2 BC allowed Helots to become free by paying 500 drachmas; 6000 helots paid.
[51] Schmitz vol 1. p304
[52] Soriano (2005), pp.8789
[53] Soriano (2005), pp.9091

Campbell, Duncan B (2012). Spartan Warrior (Warrior Series #163). Osprey Publications.
Connolly, Peter (2006). Greece and Rome at War. Greenhill Books. ISBN978-1-85367-303-0.
Lazenby, John (1985). The Spartan Army. Aris & Phillips Ltd. ISBN0-86516-115-1.
Sekunda, Nicholas (1986). The Ancient Greeks: Armies of Classical Greece, 5th and 4th Centuries BC (Elite
Series #7). Osprey Publications. ISBN0-85045-686-X.
Sekunda, Nicholas (1998). The Spartan Army (Elite Series #60). Osprey Publications. ISBN1-85532-659-0.
Soriano, Celia (2005). Kayamanan III: History of the World (2005 Ed). Rex Bookstore, Inc.
Spartan army 13

Warry, John (2004). Warfare in the Classical World. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN0-8061-2794-5.

Ancient Greek cuisine

Ancient Greek cuisine was characterized
by its frugality, reflecting agricultural
hardship.[1] It was founded on the
"Mediterranean triad": wheat, olive oil, and
Our knowledge of ancient Greek cuisine and
eating habits is derived from literary and
artistic evidence. Our literary knowledge
comes mostly from Aristophanes' comedies
and quotes preserved by 2nd3rd century
AD grammarian Athenaeus; artistic Kylix, the most common drinking vessel in ancient Greece, c.500 BC, British
information is provided by black- and Museum
red-figure vase-painting and terracotta


At home
The Greeks had three to four meals a day. Breakfast (
akratismos) consisted of barley bread dipped in wine (
akratos), sometimes complemented by figs or olives.[3] They also
made pancakes called (tganits),
(tagnits)[4] or (tagnias),[5] all words deriving from
(tagnon), "frying pan".[6] The earliest attested references
on tagenias are in the works of the 5th century BC poets
Cratinus[7] and Magnes.[8]

Tagenites were made with wheat flour, olive oil, honey and
curdled milk, and were served for breakfast.[9][10][11] Another kind
of pancake was (staitits), from (staitinos),
"of flour or dough of spelt",[12] derived from (stais), "flour
of spelt".[13] Athenaeus in his Deipnosophistae mentions staititas
Terracotta model representing a lion's paw tripod table,
topped with honey, sesame and cheese.[14][15][16]
2nd1st century BC, from Myrina, Louvre
A quick lunch ( ariston[17]) was taken around noon or
early afternoon.[18] Dinner ( deipnon), the most important meal of the day, was generally taken at nightfall.
An additional light meal ( hesperisma) was sometimes taken in the late afternoon. /
aristodeipnon, literally "lunch-dinner", was served in the late afternoon instead of dinner.[19]
Men and women took their meals separately.[20] When the house was too small, the men ate first, the women
afterwards.[21] Slaves waited at dinners. Aristotle notes that "the poor, having no slaves, must use their wives and
children as servants".[22]
Ancient Greek cuisine 14

The ancient Greek custom to place terra cotta miniatures of their furniture in children's graves gives us a good idea
of its style and design. The Greeks normally ate while seated on chairs; benches were used for banquets.[23] The
tables, high for normal meals and low for banquets, were initially rectangular in shape. But by the 4th century BC,
the usual table was round, often with animal-shaped legs (for example lion's paws). Loaves of flat bread could be
used as plates, but terra cotta bowls were more common.[24]
Dishes became more refined over time, and by the Roman period plates were sometimes made out of precious metals
or glass. Cutlery was not often used at table: Use of the fork was unknown, people ate with their fingers.[25] Knives
were used to cut the meat. Spoons were used for soups and broths. Pieces of bread ( apomagdalia)
could be used to spoon the food or as napkins, to wipe the fingers.[26]

Social dining
As with modern dinner parties, the host
could simply invite friends or family; but
two other forms of social dining were
central in ancient Greece: the entertainment
of the all-male symposium, and the
obligatory, regimental syssitia.


Main article: Symposium

The symposium ( symposion),
traditionally translated as "banquet", but
more literally "gathering of drinkers",[27]
was one of the preferred pastimes for the
Greeks. It consisted of two parts: the first
dedicated to food, generally rather simple,
and a second part dedicated to drinking.
However, wine was consumed with the
food, and the beverages were accompanied
Banqueter playing the kottabos, a playful subversion of the libation, ca. 510 BC,
by snacks ( tragmata) such as
chestnuts, beans, toasted wheat, or honey
cakes; all intended to absorb alcohol and
extend the drinking spree.[28]

The second part was inaugurated with a libation, most often in honor of Dionysus,[29] followed by conversation or
table games, such as kottabos. The guests would recline on couches ( klinai); low tables held the food or game
boards. Dancers, acrobats, and musicians would entertain the wealthy banqueters. A "king of the banquet" was
drawn by lots; he had the task of directing the slaves as to how strong to mix the wine.
With the exception of Courtesans, the banquet was strictly reserved for men. It was an essential element of Greek
social life. Great feasts could only be afforded by the rich; in most Greek homes, religious feasts or family events
were the occasion of more modest banquets. The banquet became the setting of a specific genre of literature, giving
birth to Plato's Symposium, Xenophon's work of the same name, the Table Talk of Plutarch's Moralia, and the
Deipnosophists (Banquet of the Learned) of Athenaeus.
Ancient Greek cuisine 15

Main article: Syssitia
The syssitia ( ta syssitia) were mandatory meals shared by social or religious groups for men and
youths, especially in Crete and Sparta. They were referred to variously as hetairia, pheiditia, or andreia (literally,
"belonging to men"). They served as both a kind of aristocratic club and as a military mess. Like the symposium, the
syssitia was the exclusive domain of men although some references have been found to all-female syssitia. Unlike
the symposium, these meals were hallmarked by simplicity and temperance.


Cereals formed the staple diet. The two main grains were wheat (
sitos) and barley.[30] Wheat grains were softened by soaking, then
either reduced into gruel, or ground into flour ( aleiata) and
kneaded and formed into loaves ( artos) or flatbreads, either
plain or mixed with cheese or honey.[31] Leavening was known; the
Greeks later used an alkali ( nitron) or wine yeast as a leavening
agent.[32] Dough loaves were baked at home in a clay oven (
ipnos) set on legs.[33]

A simpler method consisted in putting lighted coals on the floor and

covering the heap with a dome-shaped cover ( pnigeus); when
it was hot enough, the coals were swept aside, dough loaves were
placed on the warm floor, the cover was put back in place and the coals
were gathered on the side of the cover.[34] (This method is still
traditionally used in Serbia and elsewhere in the Balkans, where it is
called crepulja or sa). The stone oven did not appear until the Roman
period. Solon, an Athenian lawmaker of the 6th century BC, prescribed
that leavened bread be reserved for feast days.[35] By the end of the 5th Woman kneading bread, c. 500475 BC,
National Archaeological Museum of Athens
century BC, leavened bread was sold at the market, though it was

Barley was easier to produce but more difficult to make bread from. It provided a nourishing but very heavy
bread.[37] Because of this it was often roasted before milling, producing a coarse flour ( alphita) which was
used to make maza, the basic Greek dish. In Peace, Aristophanes employs the expression
, literally "to eat only barley", with a meaning equivalent to the English "diet of bread and water".[38] Many
recipes for maza are known; it could be served cooked or raw, as a broth, or made into dumplings or flatbreads. Like
wheat breads, it could also be augmented with cheese or honey.
Ancient Greek cuisine 16

Fruit and vegetables

The cereals were often served accompanied by what was generically referred to as opson, "relish".[39] The
word initially meant anything prepared on the fire, and, by extension, anything which accompanied bread.[40] In the
classical period it came to refer to fruit and vegetables: cabbage, onions, lentils, sweet peas, chickpeas, broad beans,
garden peas, grass peas, etc.[41]
They were eaten as a soup, boiled or mashed ( etnos), seasoned with olive oil, vinegar, herbs or gron, a
fish sauce similar to Vietnamese nc mm. According to Aristophanes,[42] mashed beans were a favourite dish of
Heracles, always represented as a glutton in comedies. Poor families ate oak acorns ( balanoi).[43] Raw or
preserved olives were a common appetizer.[44]
In the cities, fresh vegetables were expensive: the poorer city dwellers had to make do with dried vegetables. Lentil
soup ( phak) was the workman's typical dish.[45] Cheese, garlic and onions were the soldier's traditional
fare.[46] In Peace, the smell of onions typically represents soldiers; the chorus, celebrating the end of war, sings Oh!
joy, joy! no more helmet, no more cheese nor onions![47] Bitter vetch ( orobos) was considered a famine
Fruits, fresh or dried, and nuts, were eaten as dessert. Important fruits were figs, raisins and pomegranates. Dried figs
were also eaten as an appetizer or when drinking wine. In the latter case, they were often accompanied by grilled
chestnuts, chick peas, and beechnuts.

Fish and Meat

The consumption of fish and meat varied in accordance
with the wealth and location of the household; in the
country, hunting (primarily trapping) allowed for
consumption of birds and hares. Peasants also had
farmyards to provide them with chickens and geese.
Slightly wealthier landowners could raise goats, pigs,
or sheep. In the city, meat was expensive except for
pork. In Aristophanes' day a piglet cost three
drachmas,[49] which was three days wages for a public
servant. Sausages were common both for the poor and
the rich.[50]

In the 8th century BC Hesiod describes the ideal

country feast in Works and Days:

Sacrifice; principal source of meat for city dwellers here a boar;

tondo of an Attic kylix by the Epidromos Painter, c.510500 BC,

But at that time let me have a shady rock and Bibline wine, a clot of curds and milk of drained goats with the flesh of a heifer fed in the woods,
that has never calved, and of firstling kids; then also let me drink bright wine

Meat is much less prominent in texts of the 5th century BC onwards than in the earliest poetry, but this may be a
matter of genre rather than real evidence of changes in farming and food customs. The eating of fresh meat was
accompanied by a religious ritual in which the gods' share (fat and bones) was burnt while the human share (meat)
was grilled and distributed to the participants; there was however a lively trade in cooked and salted meats, which
Ancient Greek cuisine 17

demanded no ritual.
Spartans primarily ate pork stew, the "black broth ( melas zmos). According to Plutarch, it was "so
much valued that the elderly men fed only upon that, leaving what flesh there was to the younger".[52] It was famous
amongst the Greeks. "Naturally Spartans are the bravest men in the world", joked a Sybarite, "anyone in his senses
would rather die ten thousand times than take his share of such a sorry diet".[53] It was made with pork, salt, vinegar
and blood. The dish was served with maza, figs and cheese sometimes supplemented with game and fish.[54] The
2nd3rd century author Aelian, claims that Spartan cooks were prohibited from cooking anything other than
In the Greek islands and on the coast, fresh fish and seafood (squid, octopus, and shellfish) were common. They
were eaten locally but more often transported inland. Sardines and anchovies were regular fare for the citizens of
Athens. They were sometimes sold fresh, but more frequently salted. A stele of the late 3rd century BC from the
small Boeotian city of Akraiphia, on Lake Copais, provides us with a list of fish prices. The cheapest was skaren
(probably parrotfish) whereas Atlantic bluefin tuna was three times as expensive.[56] Common salt water fish were
yellowfin tuna, red mullet, ray, swordfish or sturgeon, a delicacy which was eaten salted. Lake Copais itself was
famous in all Greece for its eels, celebrated by the hero of The Acharnians. Other fresh water fish were pike-fish,
carp and the less appreciated catfish.

Eggs and dairy products

Greeks bred quails and hens, partly for their eggs. Some authors also praise pheasant eggs and Egyptian Goose
eggs,[57] which were presumably rather rare. Eggs were cooked soft- or hard-boiled as hors d'uvre or dessert.
Whites, yolks and whole eggs were also used as ingredients in the preparation of dishes.[58]
Country dwellers drank milk ( gala), but it was seldom used in cooking. Butter ( bouturon) was
known but seldom used either: Greeks saw it as a culinary trait of the Thracians of the northern Aegean coast, whom
the Middle Comic poet Anaxandrides dubbed "butter eaters".[59] Yet Greeks enjoyed other dairy products.
pyriat and were curdled milk products, similar to cottage cheese[60] or perhaps to yogurt.[61] Most of all,
goat's and ewe's cheese ( tyros) was a staple food. Fresh and hard cheese were sold in different shops; the
former cost about two thirds of the latter's price.[62]
Cheese was eaten alone or with honey or vegetables. It was also used as an ingredient in the preparation of many
dishes, including fish dishes. The only extant recipe by the Sicilian cook Mithaecus runs: "Tainia: gut, discard the
head, rinse and fillet; add cheese and olive oil".[63] However, the addition of cheese seems to have been a
controversial matter; Archestratus warns his readers that Syracusan cooks spoil good fish by adding cheese.
Ancient Greek cuisine 18

The most widespread drink was water. Fetching water
was a daily task for women. Though wells were
common, spring water was preferred: it was recognized
as nutritious because it caused plants and trees to
grow,[64] and also as a desirable beverage.[65] Pindar
called spring water "as agreeable as honey".[66]

The Greeks would describe water as robust,[67]

heavy[68] or light,[69] dry,[70] acidic,[71] pungent,[72]
wine-like,[73] etc. One of the comic poet Antiphanes's
characters claimed that he could recognize Attic water
by taste alone.[74] Athenaeus states that a number of
philosophers had a reputation for drinking nothing but
water, a habit combined with a vegetarian diet
(cf.below).[75] Milk, usually goats' milk, was not
Attic Rhyton, c.460450 BC, National Archaeological Museum of
consumed. It was considered barbaric. Athens.

The usual drinking vessel was the skyphos, made out of

wood, terra cotta, or metal. Critias[76] also mentions the kothon, a Spartan goblet which had the military advantage of
hiding the colour of the water from view and trapping mud in its edge. They also used vessel called a kylix (a
shallow footed bowl), and for banquets the kantharos (a deep cup with handles) or the rhyton, a drinking horn often
moulded into the form of a human or animal head.

See also: Ancient Greece and wine
The Greeks are thought to have made red as well as
ros and white wines. As at the present time, many
qualities of production were to be found, from common
table wine to vintage qualities. The best wines, in
general opinion, came from Thsos, Lesbos and

Cretan wine came to prominence later. A secondary

wine made from water and pomace (the residue from
squeezed grapes), mixed with lees, was made by
country people for their own use. The Greeks
sometimes sweetened their wine with honey and made
medicinal wines by adding thyme, pennyroyal and
other herbs. By the first century, if not before, they
were familiar with wine flavoured with pine resin
(modern retsina).[78] Aelian also mentions a wine
A banqueter reaches into a krater with an oenochoe to replenish his
mixed with perfume.[79] Cooked wine was known,[80] kylix with wine, c.490480 BC, Louvre
as well as a sweet wine from Thsos, similar to port

Wine was generally cut with water. The drinking of akraton or "unmixed wine", though known to be practised by
northern barbarians, was thought likely to lead to madness and death.[81] Wine was mixed in a krater, from which
Ancient Greek cuisine 19

the slaves would fill the drinker's kylix with an oinochoe (jugs). Wine was also used as a generic medication, being
taken to have medicinal virtue. Aelian mentions that the wine from Heraia in Arcadia rendered men foolish but
women fertile; conversely, Achaean wine was thought to induce abortion.[82]
Outside of these therapeutic uses, Greek society did not approve of women drinking wine. According to Aelian, a
Massalian law prohibited this and restricted women to drinking water.[83] Sparta was the only city where women
routinely drank wine.
Wine reserved for local use was kept in skins. That destined for sale was poured into pithoi, (large terra cotta
jugs). From here they were decanted into amphoras sealed with pitch for retail sale.[84] Vintage wines carried stamps
from the producers and/or city magistrates who guaranteed their origin. This is one of the first instances of indicating
the geographical or qualitative provenance of a product, and is the basis of the modern appellations d'origine
contrles certification.

The Greeks also drank kykeon (,
from kyka, "to shake, to mix"),
which was both a beverage and a meal. It
was a barley gruel, to which water and herbs
were added. In the Iliad, the beverage also
contained grated goat cheese.[85] In the
Odyssey, Circe adds honey and a magic
potion to it.[86] In the Homeric Hymn to
Demeter, the goddess refuses red wine but
accepts a kykeon made of water, flour, and

Used as a ritual beverage in the Eleusinian

Mysteries, kykeon was also a popular
beverage, especially in the countryside:
Theophrastus, in his Characters, describes a
boorish peasant as having drunk much
kykeon and inconveniencing the Assembly
with his bad breath.[88] It also had a
reputation as a good digestive, and as such, Hecamede preparing kykeon for Nestor, kylix by the Brygos Painter, ca. 490 BC,
in Peace, Hermes recommends it to the
main character who has eaten too much
dried fruit.[89]

Cultural beliefs about the role of food

Food played an important part in the Greek mode of thought. Classicist John Wilkins notes that "in the Odyssey for
example, good men are distinguished from bad and Greeks from foreigners partly in terms of how and what they ate.
Herodotus identified people partly in terms of food and eating".[90]
Up to the 3rd century BC, the frugality imposed by the physical and climatic conditions of the country was held as
virtuous. The Greeks did not ignore the pleasures of eating, but valued simplicity. The rural writer Hesiod, as cited
above, spoke of his "flesh of a heifer fed in the woods, that has never calved, and of firstling kids" as being the
perfect closing to a day. Nonetheless, Chrysippus is quoted as saying that the best meal was a free one.[91]
Ancient Greek cuisine 20

Culinary and gastronomical research was rejected as a sign of oriental flabbiness: the Persian Empire was considered
decadent due to their luxurious taste, which manifested itself in their cuisine.[92] The Greek authors took pleasure in
describing the table of the Achaemenid Great King and his court: Herodotus,[93] Clearchus of Soli,[94] Strabo[95] and
Ctesias[96] were unanimous in their descriptions.
In contrast, Greeks as a whole stressed the austerity of
their own diet. Plutarch tells how the king of Pontus,
eager to try the Spartan "black gruel", bought a
Laconian cook; "but had no sooner tasted it than he
found it extremely bad, which the cook observing, told
him, "Sir, to make this broth relish, you should have
bathed yourself first in the river Evrotas".[97]".
According to Polyaenus,[98] on discovering the dining
hall of the Persian royal palace, Alexander the Great
mocked their taste and blamed it for their defeat.
Pausanias, on discovering the dining habits of the
Persian commander Mardonius, equally ridiculed the
Persians, "who having so much, came to rob the Greeks
of their miserable living".[99]

In consequence of this cult of frugality, and the

Fresh fish, one of the favourite dishes of the Greeks, platter with red
diminished regard for cuisine it inspired, the kitchen figures, c.350325 BC, Louvre
long remained the domain of women, free or enslaved.
In the classical period, however, culinary specialists
began to enter the written record. Both Aelian[100] and Athenaeus mention the thousand cooks who accompanied
Smindyride of Sybaris on his voyage to Athens at the time of Cleisthenes, if only disapprovingly. Plato in Gorgias,
mentions "Thearion the cook, Mithaecus the author of a treatise on Sicilian cooking, and Sarambos the wine
merchant; three eminent connoisseurs of cake, kitchen and wine."[101] Some chefs also wrote treatises on cuisine.

Over time, more and more Greeks presented themselves as gourmets. From the Hellenistic to the Roman period, the
Greeks at least the rich no longer appeared to be any more austere than others. The cultivated guests of the
feast hosted by Athenaeus in the 2nd or 3rd century devoted a large part of their conversation to wine and
gastronomy. They discussed the merits of various wines, vegetables, and meats, mentioning renowned dishes
(stuffed cuttlefish, red tuna belly, prawns, lettuce watered with mead) and great cooks such as Soterides, chef to king
Nicomedes I of Bithynia (who reigned from the 279 to 250 BC). When his master was inland, he pined for
anchovies; Soterides simulated them from carefully carved turnips, oiled, salted and sprinkled with poppy seeds.[102]
Suidas (an encyclopaedia from the Byzantine period) mistakenly attributes this exploit to the celebrated Roman
gourmet Apicius (1st century BC) [103] which may be taken as evidence that the Greeks had reached the same
level as the Romans.
Ancient Greek cuisine 21

Specific diets

Orphicism and Pythagoreanism, two common ancient
Greek religions, suggested a different way of life, based
on a concept of purity and thus purification (
katharsis) a form of asceticism in the original sense:
asksis initially signifies a ritual, then a
specific way of life. Vegetarianism was a central
element of Orphicism and of several variants of

Empedocles (5th century BC) justified vegetarianism

by a belief in the transmigration of souls: who could
guarantee that an animal about to be slaughtered did
not house the soul of a human being? However, it can
be observed that Empedocles also included plants in
this transmigration, thus the same logic should have
applied to eating them.[104] Vegetarianism was also a
consequence of a dislike for killing: "For Orpheus
taught us rights and to refrain from killing".[105]

The information from Pythagoras (6th century BC) is

more difficult to define. The Comedic authors such as
Aristophanes and Alexis described Pythagoreans as
strictly vegetarian, with some of them living on bread Triptolemus received wheat sheaves from Demeter and blessings
and water alone. Other traditions contented themselves from Persephone, 5th century BC relief, National Archaeological
with prohibiting the consumption of certain vegetables, Museum of Athens

such as the broad bean,[106] or of sacred animals such

as the white cock or selected animal parts.

It follows that vegetarianism and the idea of ascetic purity were closely associated, and often accompanied by sexual
abstinence. In On the eating of flesh, Plutarch (1st2nd century) elaborated on the barbarism of blood-spilling;
inverting the usual terms of debate, he asked the meat-eater to justify his choice.[107]
The Neoplatonic Porphyrius (3rd century) associates in On Abstinence vegetarianism with the Cretan mystery cults,
and gives a census of past vegetarians, starting with the semi-mythical Epimenides. For him, the origin of
vegetarianism was Demeter's gift of wheat to Triptolemus so that he could teach agriculture to humanity. His three
commandments were: "Honour your parents", "Honour the gods with fruit", and Spare the animals".[108]

Athlete diets
Aelian claims that the first athlete to submit to a formal diet was Ikkos of Tarentum, a victor in the Olympic
pentathlon (perhaps in 444 BC).[109] However, Olympic wrestling champion (62nd through 66th Olympiads) Milo of
Croton was already said to eat twenty pounds of meat and twenty pounds of bread and to drink eight quarts of wine
each day.[110] Before his time, athletes were said to practise xrophaga (from xros, "dry"), a diet
based on dry foods such as dried figs, fresh cheese and bread.[111] Pythagoras (either the philosopher or a gymnastics
master of the same name) was the first to direct athletes to eat meat.[112]
Trainers later enforced some standard diet rules: to be an Olympic victor, "you have to eat according to regulations,
keep away from desserts (); you must not drink cold water nor can you have a drink of wine whenever you
Ancient Greek cuisine 22

want".[113] It seems this diet was primarily based on meat, for Galen (ca. 180 AD) accused athletes of his day of
"always gorging themselved on flesh and blood".[114] Pausanias also refers to a "meat diet".[115]

[1] This article was initially translated from the French WikipedialuluAlimentation en Grce antique on 26 May 2006.
[2] The expression originates in Sir Colin Renfrew's The Emergence of Civilisation: The Cyclades and the Aegean in The Third Millennium BC,
1972, p.280.
[3] Flacelire, p.205.
[4] (http:/ / www. perseus. tufts. edu/ hopper/ text?doc=Perseus:text:1999. 04. 0057:entry=taghni/ ths), Henry George Liddell, Robert
Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
[5] (http:/ / www. perseus. tufts. edu/ hopper/ text?doc=Perseus:text:1999. 04. 0057:entry=taghni/ as), Henry George Liddell, Robert
Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
[6] (http:/ / www. perseus. tufts. edu/ hopper/ text?doc=Perseus:text:1999. 04. 0057:entry=ta/ ghnon), Henry George Liddell, Robert
Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
[7] Cratinus, 125 (http:/ / www. archive. org/ stream/ comicorumatticor01kockuoft#page/ 52/ mode/ 1up), Comicorum Atticorum Fragmenta
[8] Magnes, 1
[9] Eugenia Salza Prina Ricotti, Meals and recipes from ancient Greece (http:/ / books. google. de/ books?id=iJWhUOazBvsC& pg=PA111&
dq=tagenites& hl=en& ei=TVnoTpOCGIn2sgael4jBBw& sa=X& oi=book_result& ct=result& redir_esc=y#v=onepage& q=tagenites&
f=false), J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007, p.111
[10] Andrew Dalby, Siren feasts: a history of food and gastronomy in Greece, Routledge, 1996, p.91
[11] Gene A. Spiller, The Mediterranean diets in health and disease (http:/ / books. google. de/ books?id=3Y9PAltb6B0C& pg=PA34&
dq=teganites+ + pancake& hl=de& ei=Z2XoTuKtMYvJswbZt-SvBw& sa=X& oi=book_result& ct=result& resnum=2&
ved=0CDkQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage& q=teganites pancake& f=false), AVI/Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1991, p.34
[12] (http:/ / www. perseus. tufts. edu/ hopper/ text?doc=Perseus:text:1999. 04. 0057:entry=stai/ tinos), Henry George Liddell, Robert
Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
[13] (http:/ / www. perseus. tufts. edu/ hopper/ text?doc=Perseus:text:1999. 04. 0057:entry=stai=s), Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A
Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
[14] Atheneaus, The Deipnosophists, 646b (http:/ / www. perseus. tufts. edu/ hopper/ text?doc=Ath. + 646b& fromdoc=Perseus:text:2008. 01.
0405), on Perseus
[15] Andrew Dalby, Food in the ancient world from A to Z (http:/ / books. google. de/ books?id=FtIXAe2qYDgC& pg=PA71& dq=tagenites+
staitites+ pancake& hl=en& ei=LlXoTqi8GYvzsgbE253UBw& sa=X& oi=book_result& ct=result& redir_esc=y#v=onepage& q=tagenites
staitites pancake& f=false), Routledge, 2003, p.71
[16] Athenaeus and S. Douglas Olson, The Learned Banqueters, Volume VII: Books 13.594b-14, Loeb Classical Library, 2011, pp.277-278
[17] At the time of Homer and the early tragedies, the term signified the first meal of the day, which was not necessarily frugal: in Iliad 24:124,
Achilles's companions slaughter a sheep for breakfast.
[18] Flacelire, p.206.
[19] Alexis fgt.214 Kock = Athenaeus 47e.
[20] Dalby, p.5.
[21] Dalby, p.15.
[22] Politics 1323a4.
[23] Dalby, pp.1314.
[24] Flacelire, p.209.
[25] Sparkes, p.132.
[26] Aristophanes Knights 41316; Pollux 6.93.
[27] Flacelire, p.212.
[28] Flacelire, p.213.
[29] Flacelire, p.215.
[30] Dalby, pp.9091.
[31] Migeotte, p.62.
[32] Galen, On the properties of Food 1.10; Dalby p.91.
[33] Sparkes, p.127.
[34] Sparkes, p.128.
[35] Flacelire, p.207.
[36] Aristophanes, Frogs 858 and Wasps 238.
[37] Dalby, p.91.
[38] Peace 449.
[39] Dalby, p.22.
[40] Scholia to Homer, Iliad' 11.630.
Ancient Greek cuisine 23

[41] See Kimberly-Hatch.

[42] The Frogs 6263.
[43] Dalby, p.89.
[44] Dalby, p.23.
[45] Dalby, p.90; Flint-Hamilton, p.75.
[46] Flacelire, p.208.
[47] Peace 11271129. Peace (http:/ / www. perseus. tufts. edu/ cgi-bin/ ptext?doc=Perseus:text:1999. 01. 0038& layout=& loc=1127). trans.
Eugene O'Neill, Jr. 1938. accessed 23 May 2006.
[48] Demosthenes, Against Androtion 15.
[49] Peace 374.
[50] Sparkes, p.123.
[51] Hesiod. Works and Days (http:/ / www. perseus. tufts. edu/ cgi-bin/ ptext?doc=Perseus:text:1999. 01. 0132) 58893, trans. Hugh G.
Evelyn-White 1914. accessed 23 May 2006
[52] Life of Lycurgus 12:12.
[53] Apud Athenaeus 138d, trans. quoted by Dalby, p.126.
[54] Life of Lycurgus 12:3 and Dicaearchus fgt.72 Wehrli.
[55] Various History 14:7.
[56] Dalby, p.67.
[57] Athenaeus, Epitome 58b.
[58] Dalby, p.65.
[59] Athenaeus 151b.
[60] Owen Powell, trans., Galen: On the properties of food, ISBN 0521812429, 689-696, p. 128-129 ; translator's notes p. 181-182
[61] Dalby, p. 66
[62] Dalby, p.66.
[63] Athenaeus 325f.
[64] Athenaeus 40f41a commenting on Odyssey 17.208.
[65] Athenaeus 41a commenting on Iliad 2.753.
[66] Pindar, fgt.198 B4.
[67] smatds, Athenaeus 42a.
[68] barystathmoteros, Athenaeus 42c.
[69] kouphos, Athenaeus 42c.
[70] kataxros, Athenaeus 43a.
[71] oxys, Theopompus fgt.229 M. I316 = Athenaeus 43b.
[72] trakuteros, Athenaeus 43b.
[73] oinds, Athenaeus 42c.
[74] Antiphanes fgt.179 Kock = Athenaeus 43bc.
[75] Athenaeus 44.
[76] Apud Plutarch, Life of Lycurgus, 9:78.
[77] Athenaeus 28de.
[78] First mention in Dioscorides, Materia Medica 5.34; Dalby, p.150.
[79] Various History 12:31.
[80] Athenaeus 31d.
[81] E.g. Menander, Samia 394.
[82] Various History, 13:6.
[83] Various History, 2:38.
[84] Dalby, p.889.
[85] Iliad 15:638641.
[86] Odyssey 10:234.
[87] Homeric hymn to Demeter 208.
[88] Characters 4:23.
[89] Peace 712.
[90] Wilkins, "Introduction: part II" in Wilkins, Harvey and Dobson, p.3.
[91] Apud Athenaeus 8cd.
[92] For a comparison of Persian and Greek cuisine, see Briant, pp.297306.
[93] Herodotus 1:133.
[94] Apud Athenaeus 539b.
[95] Description of Greece 15:3,22.
[96] Ctesias fgt.96 M = Athenaeus 67a.
[97] Plutarch, Life of Lycurgus (http:/ / classics. mit. edu/ Plutarch/ lycurgus. html) 12:13, trans. John Dryden. Accessed 26 May 2006.
Ancient Greek cuisine 24

[98] Stratagems, 4:3,32.

[99] Stratagems 4:82.
[100] Various History 22:24.
[101] Gorgias 518b.
[102] Euphro Comicus fgt.11 Kock = Athenaeus 7df.
[103] Suidas s.v. .
[104] Dodds, pp.1545.
[105] Aristophanes, Frogs 1032. Trans. Matthew Dillon (http:/ / www. perseus. tufts. edu/ cgi-bin/ ptext?doc=Perseus:text:1999. 01. 0032&
layout=& loc=1032), accessed 2 June 2006.
[106] Flint-Hamilton, pp.379380.
[107] Moralia 12:68.
[108] On Abstinence 4.62.
[109] Various History (11:3).
[110] Athenaeus 412f.
[111] Athenaeus 205.
[112] Diogenes Laertius 8:12.
[113] Epictetus, Discourses 15:25, trans. W.E. Sweet.
[114] Exhortation for Medicine 9, trans. S.G. Miller.
[115] Pausanias 6:7.10.

Briant, P. Histoire de l'Empire perse de Cyrus Alexandre. Paris: Fayard, 1996. ISBN 2-213-59667-0, translated
in English as From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2002
ISBN 1-57506-031-0
Dalby, A. Siren Feasts: A History of Food and Gastronomy in Greece. London: Routledge, 1996. ISBN
Dodds, E.R. "The Greek Shamans and the Origins of Puritanism ", The Greek and the Irrational (Sather Classical
Lectures). Berkeley: University of California Press, 1962 (1st edn 1959).
Flacelire R. La Vie quotidienne en Grce au temps de Pricls. Paris: Hachette, 1988 (1st edn. 1959) ISBN
2-01-005966-2, translated in English as Daily Life in Greece at the Time of Pericles. London: Phoenix Press,
2002 ISBN 1-84212-507-9
Flint-Hamilton, K.B. "Legumes in Ancient Greece and Rome: Food, Medicine, or Poison?", Hesperia, Vol.68,
No.3 (Jul.Sep., 1999), pp.371385.
(French) Migeotte, L., L'conomie des cits grecques. Paris: Ellipses, 2002 ISBN 2-7298-0849-3
Sparkes, B.A. "The Greek Kitchen", The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol.82, 1962 (1962), pp.121137.
Wilkins, J., Harvey, D. and Dobson, M. Food in Antiquity. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1995. ISBN

Further reading
(French) Amouretti, M.-Cl. Le Pain et l'huile dans la Grce antique. De l'araire au moulin. Paris: Belles Lettres,
(French) Delatte, A. Le Cycon, breuvage rituel des mystres d'leusis. Paris: Belles Lettres, 1955.
Detienne, M. and Vernant, J.-P. (trans. Wissing, P.). The Cuisine of Sacrifice Among the Greeks. Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press, 1989 (1st edn. 1979) ISBN 0-226-14353-8
Davidson, James. Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens. Fontana Press. 1998.
ISBN 978-0006863434
Ancient Greek cuisine 25

External links
(French) "Vgtarisme, au commencement" (
php?p=AuCommencement.html) (French language article on origin of vegetarianism)
A Taste of the Ancient World ( (University
of Michigan)
Ancient Greek Recipes and posts about Ancient Greek Cuisine (

Women in ancient Sparta

"Why are you Spartan women the only ones who can rule men?"
"Because we are also the only ones who give birth to men."
Gorgo, Queen of Sparta and wife of Leonidas, as quoted by Plutarch

Women in


e [2]

Women in ancient Sparta were famous for their fertility relative to that of other Greek women. In contrast to
Athens, in Spartan society girls were reared much like boys, including physical fitness training.
Spartas reputation for exposing their children at birth to discover whether or not they suffered from any one of a
number of physical defects (eugenics), and their emphasis on rearing children, particularly boys, with a focus on war
has led many to believe that their society was harshly patriarchal. However, much of the ancient world observed
Sparta with great confusion due to their perceived leniency when governing their female population.
This leniency is only in relation to the foreign male authors of the time and historians would be quick to ignore it if
not for the absence of Spartan texts on the subject. Sparta seems to have purposely not recorded its history, and given
that men of the time were disinclined to observe women, particularly those they thought of as acting above their
position, readers must rely on what little information they have pertaining to the women of Sparta.
Dowries also led to confusion over land ownership. Many Spartans believed that brides should be chosen for
character and physical sturdiness rather than economic standing and therefore no formal dowries were given at
marriage. In this way women could become increasingly wealthy inheriting both from their fathers and husbands.
Land transactions were also permitted as gifts.
Women in ancient Sparta 26

In the home
"Someone contacted a Spartan woman to ask if she would agree to let him seduce her. She said: When I was a child
I learned to obey my father, and I did so; then when I became a woman I obeyed my husband; so if this man is
making me a proper proposal, let him put it to my husband first. They could do anything.'"

As with inheritance, the practice of marriage is not well enough documented or universal enough to declare a
specific practice amongst all Spartans. A Spartan man was required to marry at the age of 30, just after he completed
Kryteian[3] Still, some men married in their twenties and simply crept away from the barracks at night to meet their
wives. Women married later than most other Greek societies, usually in their late teens and early twenties. Often
marriages were bride-captures prearranged with the fathers consent. In bride-captures, the bride (dressed by the
bridesmaid) was clothed in mens sandals and cloak and her hair was cut. The groom would then carry the woman
away to have sexual intercourse and return to his barracks before the morning.
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
mans wife to bear his children if she had previously been a strong child bearer.
For this reason many considered Spartan women polygamous or polyandrous. This practice was encouraged in order
that women bear as many strong-bodied children as they could. The Spartan population was hard to maintain due to
the constant absence and loss of the men in battle and the intense physical inspection of newborns.

Motherhood and duties

Mothers were essentially the head of the households in Spartan society when fathers were off at war.[4] Sons were
taken from the house at age seven and put through agoge. Daughters also underwent public education, although girls
stayed in their mothers houses until they were married, around the age of eighteen, and would have developed an
overwhelming bond with their mothers. Women were not expected to learn domestic duties like weaving and
cleaning, as the estates helots would perform these tasks. Therefore, women were more preoccupied with
maintaining their physical stature, bearing children, and supervising the helots who worked the land.
At any given moment the Spartan polis would have consisted of predominately women, given that half of the men
were at war. When the men werent stationed they were preoccupied with training and remained separated from their
homes leaving the women to completely dominate the household. This is why socially and politically women had a
freedom within the community.
Spartan law codified under Lycurgus expressed the importance of motherhood and child labor to the contribution of
Spartan population. Motherhood and child labor were considered major duties in Spartan society, as equally
compared to the duty of male warrior in Spartan army. Under the Spartan law, women who had died in child birth
and men who died in serving their country both equally deserved the honor of having their names in-scripted on their
Spartan women were highly encouraged to produce many children, preferably male, to increase Sparta's military
population. They took pride in themselves for breeding a brave warrior. Being the mother of a popular warrior was a
high honor for a Spartan woman.
Women in ancient Sparta 27

Spartan women were allowed to divorce their husbands without fear of losing their personal wealth. As equal
citizens of the community, women could divorce and were not required to or discouraged from remarrying. The
unique family unit of Sparta also did not force the woman to relinquish her children, as biological paternity was not
important in raising the children. Boys were already taken into agoge and girls would have felt a strong connection
to the mother.

for modesty attended them, and there was no wantonness in their behavior

Formal education
Female education is vague and rarely mentioned as in a formal class setting, presumably taking place in the home. It
is at least documented that wealthier women wrote letters to their sons and it is therefore assumed that they could
read and write. It is more clearly understood that women studied mousike, which consisted of the arts, music,
dancing, and poetry. Given the Spartan focus on community as a family, it is considered possible that girls were also
taught in a community-run institution that was given equally to all Spartan families.

Physical training
Female Spartan babies are remarked to have been significantly more
nourished than other female Greek children and in some cases than
Spartan male babies. Many believe this preference was shown to
female babies because it was especially important to have physically fit
women to bear children. In their youth, female Spartans ran around
nude alongside the boys and competed in gymnastics, wrestling, foot
and horse races, and other required physical trials, all in the publics

Girls also frequently competed in gymnopaedia, the Spartan festival of

naked youths. Women were also known to compete in the Olympics
and other important athletic events, usually wrestling.

Religion Bronze figurine of a girl running, probably from

All Greeks worshipped generally the same gods, but location denoted a
regions emphasis on different gods. For instance, Spartans held
warrior gods much higher than peaceful gods. Women more specifically worshipped gods associated with beauty,
health, fitness, and childbirth (like Eileithyia).
Spartan women also participated in cults centered on local heroes or myths. The Cult of Helen of Sparta was
obviously large amongst Spartans as well as the Cult of Cynisca. Cynisca was a famous Spartan chariot racer and
princess and was the first woman to win at the Ancient Olympic Games. In following Cynisca, many Spartan women
practiced chariot racing and participated in horse races.
In Spartan burial rites, womens names were etched into their gravestone upon burial only if they died during
childbirth, as men received this honor only if they died in active battle.
Women in ancient Sparta 28

There were no female-specific ceremonies or festivals, aside from occasional all-female chariot races or athletic
events. However, this could be a result of women already holding significance in community wide festivals and
religious ceremonies.[5]

Spartan women's clothing was simple and notoriously short. Many foreigners remarked that Spartan womens legs
were constantly spread. Since women did not weave their own clothes and instead left the creation of goods to the
perioikoi, the purchase of elaborate cloth and of metal bracelets was a sign of wealth. It is unknown whether women
wore these silver and gold bracelets at all times or if only for religious ceremonies and festivals. Women were also
not allowed to grow their hair long.

Famous Spartan women

Helen of Sparta (Helen of Troy)
Queen Gorgo (wife of Leonidas I)
Cynisca famous chariot racer
Euryleonis - famous chariot racer
Chilonis (daughter of Leotychidas)
Chilonis (wife of Cleombrotus II)

[1] Plutarch, Moralia 225A and 240E
[2] http:/ / en. wikipedia. org/ w/ index. php?title=Template:Women_in_society_sidebar& action=edit
[3] name=Herodotus
[4] name= Herodotus
[5] Pat. "Women in Spartan Society" (http:/ / arcanehistory. com/ ?p=21), Arcane History, 2008. Retrieved on 2010-01-21.

Blundell, Sue (1995), Women in ancient Greece (,
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, ISBN978-0-674-95473-1.
Ducat, Jean; Stafford, Emma; Shaw, Pamela-Jane (2006), Spartan Education: Youth and Society in the Classical
Period (, Swansea: Classical Press of Wales,
Hodkinson, Stephen (2000), Property and Wealth in Classical Sparta, London: David Brown Book Co..
Plutarch; Talbert, Richard (2005), Plutarch on Sparta, London: Penguin Books.
Powell, Anton (2001), Athens and Sparta: constructing Greek political and social history from 478 BC (http://, Lonodon: Routledge, ISBN978-0-415-26280-4.
Sealey, Raphael (1976), A History of the Greek City States, ca. 700-338 B.C. (
books?id=2JT_zty82ZUC), Berkeley: University of California Press, ISBN978-0-520-03177-7.
Spartan Constitution 29

Spartan Constitution

Zeus on his throne with his eagle This article is part of the
Spartan Constitution

Great Rhetra
Laws of Lycurgus

List of Kings of Sparta

Apella of the Damos

Other Greek city-states LawPortal


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 Empire: approximately the
8th 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.

Development of Spartan society

The Dorian affiliation

Main article: Dorians
Spartan society prided itself on being members of a broad ethnic group termed the Dorians, Drieis, in their
language. This ethnic group self-identified on family and tribal tradition but also was identifiable by the Dorian
dialect it spoke. For example, where the Athenian population called itself the dmos in the Attic-Ionic dialect, the
Spartan word was Dmos, retaining the long a prevalent in an earlier stage of Greek. On the whole Dorian states
Spartan Constitution 30

everywhere could count on mutual identification and support.

Cultural supersession in the mid-Eurotas valley

Main article: Dorian invasion
Ancient Greece, or Hellas, had two non-continuous periods of native literacy: one, dated approximately 1400
BC-1200 BC, falling within the Late Bronze Age, or Mycenaean Period and the other, beginning with the innovation
of the Greek alphabet about 775 BC, within the Iron Age. From the earlier period only diurnal administrative records
survive in a syllabary called Linear B. They were in a dialect called variously Mycenaean Greek or Achaean, the
ancestor of the Attic-Ionic dialect. After 775 alphabetic inscriptions of all sorts began to appear: tombstones, laws,
decrees, making possible analysis of their dialects. A few words survive on the Linear B inscriptions which have
turned up in Hagios Basileios, Laconia,[2] such as , e-pi-zo-ta, possibly "daggers" or "short swords" (or "tire of a
wheel").[3] </ref> The earliest inscriptions from Sparta are a dedication by one Deinis "to Helen wife of Menelaos"
on a meathook and writing on a jar dated by style to about 650 BC, both found at the Menelaion, a shrine to Helen at
the site of ancient Therapne across the river from Sparti.
All the evidence points to a Mycenaean Greek occupation of major Mycenaean sites; that is, walled cities on high
places, citadels with cyclopean walls, palaces or villas featuring a megaron, Linear B tablets, large storage jars and
other appropriate Late Bronze Age pottery. The central Eurotas valley has two candidates for the capital of the
Atreid state: the citadel at Pellana and the Bronze Age town with villas on Menelaon Hill in Therapnes. The latter
has the advantage of being the site of a shrine to Helen and Menelaus. The circumstantial evidence all points to an
occupation of the Eurotas valley by Achaeans. If any Dorians were present they left no trace.
Therapne appears to have been abandoned or reduced to a small population at the end of the Bronze Age. A dark age
ensued; evidently the administrations that employed Linear B scribes were not present in that capacity any longer.
When alphabetic literacy appeared, the population employing it was Dorian. A remnant of the Achaeans comprised
the population of Arcadia. Their dialect, Arcadian, with that of Cyprus (Arcado-Cypriote) is the closest of the
dialects to Mycenaean Greek. The Dorians that now occupied the valley had superseded the Mycenaean Greeks.
The newly ascendant population of Sparta identified with other traditions than the ones associated with Mycenaean
Greece. They had come, they believed, from central and northern Greece. As allies of the Heracleidae they had
fought their way into southern Greece and gone on to Crete and the islands. Their tradition was that of warriors.
They valued instant readiness for battle above all else. Escaping from them the Mycenaean Greeks had abandoned
their homes to go into exile in Athens and then on to augment the colonies on the coast of Asia Minor as Ionians.
Beyond these circumstances no evidence for the entry of Dorians into the Peloponnesus exists. The association of the
destruction of Mycenaean palaces with a "Dorian invasion" is somewhat strained by the compression of events
requiring decades into a month or two in a single spring season. And yet, there is no question that Dorian culture
superseded Mycenaean culture in the Eurotas valley. This circumstance requires either an invasive population or a
revolution of a hitherto unknown and unattested resident population. The Spartan constitution recognizing a socially
layered society hints very strongly that this layering came about through invasion and resistance. If that is true, then
the Spartan constitution is native to Sparta and did not exist as such elsewhere.
Spartan Constitution 31

The act of foundation

Laws of Lycurgus
The Spartans had no historical records, literature, or written laws, which were, according to tradition, expressly
prohibited by an ordinance of Lycurgus, excluding the Great Rhetra.
Issuance of coinage was forbidden. Spartans were obliged to use iron obols (bars or spits), meant to encourage
self-sufficiency and discourage avarice and the hoarding of wealth. A Spartan citizen in good standing was one who
maintained his fighting skills, showed bravery in battle, ensured that his farms were productive, was married and had
healthy children. Spartan women were the only Greek women to hold property rights on their own, and were
required to practice sports before marriage. Although they had no formal political rights, they were expected to speak
their minds boldly and their opinions were heard.

Structure of Spartan society and government

Spartan society can be represented by a three-layer pyramid ruled by the government.

The structure of Spartan society, c. early 7th century BC


Not all inhabitants of the Spartan state were considered citizens (part of the Damos). Only those who had
successfully undertaken military training, called the agoge, were eligible. However, usually the only people eligible
to receive the agoge were Spartiates, or people who could trace their ancestry to the original inhabitants of the city
although there were two exceptions. Trophimoi or "foster sons" were foreign teenagers invited to study. This was
meant as a supreme honor. The pro-Spartan Athenian magnate Xenophon sent his two sons to Sparta for their
Spartan Constitution 32

education as trophimoi. Alcibiades, being an Alcmaeonid and thus a member of a family with old and strong
connections to Sparta, was admitted as a trophimos and famously excelled in the agoge as well as otherwise (he was
rumoured to have seduced one of the two queen consorts with his exceptional looks). The other exception was that
sons of helots could be enrolled as syntrophoi (comrades, literally "the ones fed, or reared, together") if a Spartiate
formally adopted him and paid his way. If a syntrophos did exceptionally well in training, he might be sponsored to
become a Spartiate himself. A free-born Spartan who had successfully completed the agoge became a "peer"
(, hmoios, literally "similar") with full civil rights at the age of 20, and remained one as long as he could
contribute his equal share of grain to the common military mess in which he was obliged to dine every evening for as
long as he was battle-worthy (usually until the age of 60). This was meant as assurance that every peer took good
care of his estates and patrimony. Such hmoioi were also required to sleep in the barracks until the age of 30,
regardless of whether they were married or not.

Others in the state were the perioeci, who can be described as civilians.

Helots were the state-owned serfs who made up 90 percent of the population. They were citizens of conquered states,
such as Messina (Conquered for their fertile land) during the First Messianic War.

The Doric state of Sparta, copying the Doric Cretans, instituted a mixed governmental state: it was composed of
elements of monarchical, oligarchical, and democratic systems. Isocrates refers to the Spartans as "subject to an
oligarchy at home, to a kingship on campaign" (iii. 24).

Dual Kingship
The state was ruled by two hereditary kings of the Agiad and the Eurypontid families, both descendants of Heracles
and equal in authority so that one could not act against the power and political enactments of his colleague, though
the Agiad king received greater honour by virtue of seniority of his family for being the "oldest extant" (Herod. vi.
There are several legendary explanations for this unusual dual kingship, which differ only slightly; for example, that
King Aristodemus had twin sons, who agreed to share the kingship, and this became perpetual. Modern scholars
have advanced various theories to account for the anomaly. Some theorize that this system was created in order to
prevent absolutism, and is paralleled by the analogous instance of the dual consuls of Rome. Others believe that it
points to a compromise arrived at to end the struggle between two families or communities. Other theories suggest
that this was an arrangement that was met when a community of villages combined to form the city of Sparta.
Subsequently the two chiefs from the largest villages became kings. Another theory suggests that the two royal
houses represent respectively the Spartan conquerors and their Achaean predecessors: those who hold this last view
appeal to the words attributed by Herodotus (v. 72) to Cleomenes I: "I am no Dorian, but an Achaean"; although this
is usually explained by the (equally legendary) descent of Aristodemus from Heracles. Either way, kingship in
Sparta was hereditary and thus every king Sparta had was a descendant of the Agiad and the Eurypontid families.
Accession was given to the male child who was first born after a king's accession.
The duties of the kings were primarily religious, judicial, and militaristic. They were the chief priests of the state,
and performed certain sacrifices and also maintained communication with the Delphic sanctuary, which always
exercised great authority in Spartan politics. In the time of Herodotus (about 450 BC), their judicial functions had
been restricted to cases dealing with heiresses, adoptions and the public roads. Civil cases were decided by the
ephors, and criminal jurisdiction had been passed to the ephors, as well as to a council of elders. By 500 BC the
Spartans had become increasingly involved in the political affairs of the surrounding city-states, often putting their
Spartan Constitution 33

weight behind pro-Spartan candidates. Shortly before 500 BC, as described by Herodotus, such an action fueled a
confrontation between Sparta and Athens, when the two kings, Demaratus and Cleomenes, took their troops to
Athens. However, just before the heat of battle, King Demaratus changed his mind about attacking the Athenians and
abandoned his co-king. For this reason, Demaratus was banished, and eventually found himself at the side of Persian
King Xerxes for his invasion of Greece twenty years later (480 BC), after which the Spartans enacted a law
demanding that one king remain behind in Sparta while the other commanded the troops in battle.
Aristotle describes the kingship at Sparta as "a kind of unlimited and perpetual generalship" (Pol. iii. I285a), Here
also, however, the royal prerogatives were curtailed over time. Dating 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 also by the ephors
in the control of foreign policy. Over time, the kings became mere figureheads except in their capacity as generals.
Real power was transferred to the ephors and to the gerousia.

The ephors, chosen by popular election from the whole body of citizens, represented a democratic element in the
After the ephors were introduced, they, together with the two kings, were the executive branch of the state.[4] Ephors
themselves had more power than anyone in Sparta, although the fact that they only stayed in power for a single year
reduced their ability to conflict with already established powers in the state. Since reelection was not possible, an
ephor who abused his power, or confronted an established power center, would have to suffer retaliation. Although
the five ephors were the only officials with regular legitimization by popular vote, in practice they were often the
most conservative force in Spartan politics.

The difference with today's states is that Sparta had a special policy maker, the gerousia, a council consisting of 28
elders over the age of 60, elected for life and usually part of the royal households, and the two kings. High state
policy decisions were discussed by this council who could then propose action alternatives to the Damos.

The collective body of Spartan citizenry would select one of the alternatives by voting. Unlike most Greek poleis,
the Spartan citizen assembly could neither set the agenda of issues to be decided, nor debate them, merely vote on
the alternatives presented to them. Neither could foreign embassies or emissaries address the assembly; they had to
present their case to the Gerousia, which would then consult with the Ephors. Sparta considered all discourse from
outside as a potential threat and all other states as past, present, or future enemies, to be treated with caution in the
very least, even when bound with alliance treaties.

Notes and references

[1] http:/ / en. wikipedia. org/ w/ index. php?title=Template:Spartan_Constitution& action=edit
[2] Greek: . It's also transliterated as inter alia Hagios Vasileios; its epigraphical classification abbreviation is HV.
[3] Found on the HV Rb 1 tablet. This word is also attested on tablets found at Knossos, such as the KN Ra 984 tablet. Cf. , e-pi-*19-ta, and
[4] ephor - Britannica Online Encyclopedia (http:/ / concise. britannica. com/ ebc/ article-9363772/ ephor)

Spartan Constitution 34

Cartledge, Paul (2003). Spartan Reflections. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Athenian democracy
Part of the Politics series


Basic forms


Representative direct
Tyranny of the majority
Politics portal

e [1]
Athenian democracy 35

Athenian democracy developed in the Greek city-state (known as a polis) of Athens, comprising the central
city-state of Athens and the surrounding territory of Attica, around the fifth century BC. Athens is one of the first
known democracies. Other Greek cities set up democracies, and even though most followed an Athenian model, but
none were as well-documented as that of Athens apart from Sparta, which is known for having the strongest military
of all the Ancient Greek cities.
It remains a unique and intriguing experiment in direct democracy, a political system in which the people do not
elect representatives to vote on their behalf but vote on legislation and executive bills in their own right. Participation
was by no means open; to vote one had to be an adult citizen, and only about 45,000 of Athens' population of around
300,000 were citizens.[citation needed] The public opinion of voters was remarkably influenced by the political satire
performed by the comic poets at the theatres.[2]
Solon (594 BC), Cleisthenes (508/7 BC), and Ephialtes (462 BC) contributed to the development of Athenian
democracy creating new institutions.
The greatest and longest lasting democratic leader was Pericles; after his death, Athenian democracy was twice
briefly interrupted by oligarchic revolution towards the end of the Peloponnesian War. It was modified somewhat
after it was restored under Eucleides; the most detailed accounts are of this fourth-century modification rather than
the Periclean system. It was suppressed by the Macedonians in 322 BC. The Athenian institutions were later revived,
but the extent to which they were a real democracy is debatable.

The word "democracy" (Greek: ) combines the elements dmos (, which means "people") and
krtos (, which means "force" or "power"). In the words "monarchy" and "oligarchy", the second element
arche () means "rule", "leading" or "being first". It is unlikely that the term "democracy" was coined by its
detractors who rejected the possibility of a valid "demarchy", as the word "demarchy" already existed and had the
meaning of mayor or municipal. One could assume the new term was coined and adopted by Athenian democrats.
The word is attested in Herodotus, who wrote some of the first surviving Greek prose, but this might not have been
before 440 or 430 BC. We are not certain that the word "democracy" was extant when systems that came to be called
democratic were first instituted, but around 460 BC[3] an individual is known whose parents had decided to name
him 'Democrates', a name possibly manufactured as a gesture of democratic loyalty; the name can also be found in
Aeolian Temnus,[4] not a particularly democratic state.[citation needed]

Participation and exclusion

Size and make-up of the Athenian population

Estimates of the population of ancient Athens vary. During the 4th century BC, there might well have been some
250,000300,000 people in Attica. Citizen families could have amounted to 100,000 people and out of these some
30,000 would have been the adult male citizens entitled to vote in the assembly. In the mid-5th century the number
of adult male citizens was perhaps as high as 60,000, but this number fell precipitously during the Peloponnesian
War.[5] This slump was permanent due to the introduction of a stricter definition of citizen described below. From a
modern perspective these figures may seem small, but in the world of Greek city-states Athens was huge: most of the
thousand or so Greek cities could only muster 10001500 adult male citizens and Corinth, a major power, had at
most 15,000 though in some very seldom cases more.
The non-citizen component of the population was divided between resident foreigners (metics) and slaves, with the
latter perhaps somewhat more numerous. Around 338 BC the orator Hyperides (fragment 13) claimed that there were
150,000 slaves in Attica, but this figure is probably no more than an impression: slaves outnumbered those of citizen
stock but did not swamp them.[6]
Athenian democracy 36

Citizenship in Athens
Only adult male Athenian citizens who had completed their military training as ephebes had the right to vote in
Athens. The percentage of the population that actually participated in the government was roughly 20% of the total
number of people but this varied from the fifth to the fourth century BC. This excluded from voting a majority of the
population, namely slaves, freed slaves, children, women and metics.[7]Wikipedia:Please clarify The women had
limited rights and privileges and were barely considered citizens. They had restricted movement in public and were
very segregated from the men.
Also excluded from voting were citizens whose rights were under suspension (typically for failure to pay a debt to
the city: see atimia); for some Athenians this amounted to permanent (and in fact inheritable) disqualification. Still,
in contrast with oligarchical societies, there were no real property qualification for voting. (The property classes of
Solon's constitution remained on the books, but they fell into disuse.) Given the exclusionary and ancestral
conception of citizenship held by Greek city-states, a relatively large portion of the population took part in the
government of Athens and of other radical democracies like it.Wikipedia:Please clarify
At Athens some citizens were far more active than others, but the vast numbers required just for the system to work
testify to a breadth of participation among those eligible that greatly surpassed any present day democracy.[citation
Athenian citizens had to be descended from citizensafter the reforms of Pericles and Cimon in 450 BC on
both sides of the family, excluding the children of Athenian men and foreign women.Wikipedia:Please clarify
Although the legislation was not retrospective, five years later the Athenians removed 5000 from the citizen registers
when a free gift of grain arrived for all citizens from an Egyptian king.[citation needed]
Citizenship could be granted by the assembly and was sometimes given to large groups (Plateans in 427 BC,
Samians in 405 BC) but, by the 4th century, only to individuals and by a special vote with a quorum of 6000. This
was generally done as a reward for some service to the state. In the course of a century, the numbers involved were
in the hundreds rather than thousands.

Main bodies of governance

There were three political bodies
where citizens gathered in numbers
running into the hundreds or
thousands. These are the assembly (in
some cases with a quorum of 6000),
the council of 500 (boule) and the
courts (a minimum of 200 people, but
running at least on some occasions up
to 6000). Of these three bodies it is the
assembly and the courts that were the
true sites of power although courts,
unlike the assembly, were never
simply called the demos (the People)
as they were manned by a subset of the
citizen body, those over thirty. But
crucially citizens voting in both were Constitution of the Athenians, 4th century BC

not subject to review and prosecution

as were council members and all other officeholders.

In the 5th century BC we often hear of the assembly sitting as a court of judgment itself for trials of political
importance and it is not a coincidence that 6000 is the number both for the full quorum for the assembly and for the
Athenian democracy 37

annual pool from which jurors were picked for particular trials. By the mid-4th century however the assembly's
judicial functions were largely curtailed, though it always kept a role in the initiation of various kinds of political

The central events of the Athenian democracy were the meetings of the assembly (, ekklsia). Unlike a
parliament, the assembly's members were not elected, but attended by right when they chose. Greek democracy
created at Athens was direct, rather than representative: any adult male citizen of ageWikipedia:Citing sources could
take part, and it was a duty to do so. The officials of the democracy were in part elected by the Assembly and in
large part chosen by lottery.
The assembly had four main functions: it made executive pronouncements (decrees, such as deciding to go to war or
granting citizenship to a foreigner); it elected some officials; it legislated; and it tried political crimes. As the system
evolved, the last function was shifted to the law courts. The standard format was that of speakers making speeches
for and against a position followed by a general vote (usually by show of hands) of yes or no.
Though there might be blocs of opinion, sometimes enduring, on important matters, there were no political parties
and likewise no government or opposition (as in the Westminster system). Voting was by simple majority. In the 5th
century at least there were scarcely any limits on the power exercised by the assembly. If the assembly broke the
law, the only thing that might happen is that it would punish those who had made the proposal that it had agreed to.
If a mistake had been made, from the assembly's viewpoint it could only be because it had been misled.[citation needed]
As usual in ancient democracies, one had to physically attend a gathering in order to vote. Military service or simple
distance prevented the exercise of citizenship. Voting was usually by show of hands (, kheirotonia, "arm
stretching") with officials judging the outcome by sight. With thousands of people attending, counting was
impossible.[citation needed] For a small category of votes a quorum of 6000 was required, principally grants of
citizenship, and here small coloured stones were used, white for yes and black for no. At the end of the session, each
voter tossed one of these into a large clay jar which was afterwards cracked open for the counting of the ballots.
Ostracism required the voters to scratch names onto pieces of broken pottery (, ostraka), though this did not
occur within the assembly as such.
In the 5th century BC, there were 10 fixed assembly meetings per year, one in each of the ten state months, with
other meetings called as needed. In the following century the meetings were set to forty a year, with four in each
state month. One of these was now called the main meeting, kyria ekklesia. Additional meetings might still be called,
especially as up until 355 BC there were still political trials that were conducted in the assembly rather than in court.
The assembly meetings did not occur at fixed intervals, as they had to avoid clashing with the annual festivals that
followed the lunar calendar. There was also a tendency for the four meetings to be aggregated toward the end of each
state month.
Athenian democracy 38

Attendance at the assembly was not always voluntary.

In the 5th century public slaves forming a cordon with
a red-stained rope herded citizens from the agora into
the assembly meeting place (Pnyx), with a fine being
imposed on those who got the red on their clothes.[8]
After the restoration of the democracy in 403 BC, pay
for assembly attendance was introduced. This promoted
a new enthusiasm for assembly meetings. Only the first
6000 to arrive were admitted and paid, with the red
rope now used to keep latecomers at bay.[9]

The Council/The Boule The Pnyx with the speaker's platform, the meeting place of the
people of Athens.
The presidency of the boule (the council) rotated
monthly amongst the ten prytanies, or delegations from
the ten Cleisthenic tribes, of the Boule (there were ten months in the Hellenic calendar). The epistates (),
an official selected by lot for a single day from among the currently presiding prytany, chaired that day's meeting of
the boule and, if there was one, that day's meeting of the assembly;[10] he also held the keys to the treasury and the
seal to the city, and welcomed foreign ambassadors. It has been calculated that one quarter of all citizens must at one
time in their lives have held the post, which could be held only once in a lifetime.

The boule also served as an executive committee for the assembly, and oversaw the activities of certain other
magistrates. The boule coordinated the activities of the various boards and magistrates that carried out the
administrative functions of Athens and provided from its own membership randomly selected boards of ten
responsible for areas ranging from naval affairs to religious observances.[11] Altogether, the boule was responsible
for a great portion of the administration of the state, but was granted relatively little latitude for initiative; the boule's
control over policy was executed in its probouleutic, rather than its executive function; in the former, it prepared
measures for deliberation by the assembly, in the latter, it merely executed the wishes of the assembly.[12]

Athens had an elaborate legal system centered on full citizen rights (see atimia). The age limit, the same as that for
office holders but ten years older than that required for participation in the assembly, gave the courts a certain
standing in relation to the assembly; for the Athenians of the court were not only older, but were wiser, too. Jurors
were required to be under oath, which was not required for attendance at the assembly. The authority exercised by
the courts had the same basis as that of the assembly: both were regarded as expressing the direct will of the people.
Unlike office holders (magistrates) who could be impeached and prosecuted for misconduct, the jurors could not be
censured, for they, in effect, were the people and no authority could be higher than that. A corollary of this was that,
at least in words spoken by the jurors, if a court had made an unjust decision, it must have been because it had been
misled by a litigant.[citation needed]
Essentially there were two grades of suit, a smaller kind known as dike () or private suit, and a larger kind
known as graphe or public suit. For private suits the minimum jury size was 200 (increased to 401 if a sum of over
1000 drachmas was at issue), for public suits 501. The juries were selected by lot from a panel of 600 jurors, there
being 600 jurors from each of the ten tribes of Athens, making a jury pool of 6000 in total. For particularly important
public suits the jury could be increased by adding in extra allotments of 500. 1000 and 1500 are regularly
encountered as jury sizes and on at least one occasion, the first time a new kind of case was brought to court (see
graph paranmn), all 6,000 members of the jury pool were put onto the one case.
Athenian democracy 39

The cases were put by the litigants themselves in the form of an exchange of single speeches timed by water clock,
first prosecutor then defendant. In a public suit the litigants each had three hours to speak, much less in private suits
(though here it was in proportion to the amount of money at stake). Decisions were made by voting without any time
set aside for deliberation. Jurors did talk informally amongst themselves during the voting procedure and juries could
be rowdy, shouting out their disapproval or disbelief of things said by the litigants. This may have had some role in
building a consensus. The jury could only cast a 'yes' or 'no' vote as to the guilt and sentence of the defendant. For
private suits only the victims or their families could prosecute, while for public suits anyone (ho boulomenos,
'whoever wants to' i.e. any citizen with full citizen rights) could bring a case since the issues in these major suits
were regarded as affecting the community as a whole.
Justice was rapid: a case could last no longer than one day.[citation needed] Some convictions triggered an automatic
penalty, but where this was not the case the two litigants each proposed a penalty for the convicted defendant and the
jury chose between them in a further vote.[citation needed] No appeal was possible. There was however a mechanism
for prosecuting the witnesses of a successful prosecutor, which it appears could lead to the undoing of the earlier
Payment for jurors was introduced around 462 BC and is ascribed to Pericles, a feature described by Aristotle as
fundamental to radical democracy (Politics 1294a37). Pay was raised from 2 to 3 obols by Cleon early in the
Peloponnesian war and there it stayed; the original amount is not known. Notably, this was introduced more than
fifty years before payment for attendance at assembly meetings. Running the courts was one of the major expenses
of the Athenian state and there were moments of financial crisis in the 4th century when the courts, at least for
private suits, had to be suspended.[citation needed]
The system showed a marked anti-professionalism. No judges presided over the courts nor did anyone give legal
direction to the jurors; magistrates had only an administrative function and were laymen. Most of the annual
magistracies at Athens could only be held once in a lifetime. There were no lawyers as such; litigants acted solely in
their capacity as citizens. Whatever professionalism there was tended to disguise itself; it was possible to pay for the
services of a speechwriter (logographos) but this was not advertised in court (except as something your opponent
had to resort to), and even politically prominent litigants made some show of disowning special expertise.
These juries formed a second mode for the expression of popular sovereignty; as in the assembly, citizens acting as
jurors acted as the people and were immune from review or punishment.

Shifting balance between assembly and courts

As the system evolved, the courts (that is, citizens under another guise) intruded upon the power of the assembly.
From 355 BC political trials were no longer held in the assembly, but only in a court. In 416 BC the graph
paranmn ("indictment against measures contrary to the laws") was introduced. Under this, anything passed by the
assembly or even proposed but not yet voted on, could be put on hold for review before a jury which might annul
it and perhaps punish the proposer as well.
Remarkably, it seems that a measure blocked before the assembly voted on it did not need to go back to the assembly
if it survived the court challenge: the court was enough to validate it. Once again it is important to bear in mind the
lack of 'neutral' state intervention. To give a schematic scenario by way of illustration: two men have clashed in the
assembly about a proposal put by one of them; it passed, and now the two of them go to court with the loser in the
assembly prosecuting both the law and its proposer. The quantity of these suits was enormous: in effect the courts
became a kind of upper house.
In the 5th century there was in effect no procedural difference between an executive decree and a law: they were
both simply passed by the assembly. But from 403 BC they were set sharply apart. Henceforth laws were made not
in the assembly, but by special panels of 1000 citizens drawn from the annual jury pool of 6000. They were known
as the nomothetai (), the lawmakers.Wikipedia:Disputed statement Nomothetai are junior archons, not the
jury. Here again it is not anything like a legislative commission sitting down to discuss the pros and cons and
Athenian democracy 40

drafting proposals, but the format is that of a trial, voting yes or no after a clash of speeches and such.

The institutions sketched above assembly, officeholders, council, courts are incomplete without the figure that
drove the whole system, Ho boulomenos, he who wishes, or anyone who wishes. This expression encapsulated the
right of citizens to take the initiative: to stand to speak in the assembly, to initiate a public lawsuit (that is, one held
to affect the political community as a whole), to propose a law before the lawmakers or to approach the council with
suggestions. Unlike officeholders, the citizen initiator was not voted before taking up office or automatically
reviewed after stepping down it had after all no set tenure and might be an action lasting only a moment. But any
stepping forward into the democratic limelight was risky and if someone chose (another citizen initiator) they could
be called to account for their actions and punished.
The degree of participation among citizens varied greatly, along a spectrum from doing virtually nothing towards
something like a full-time committent. But for even the most active citizen the formal basis of his political activity
was the invitation issued to everyone (every qualified free male Athenian citizen) by the phrase "whoever wishes".
There are then three functions: the officeholders organized and saw to the complex protocols; Ho boulomenos was
the initiator and the proposer of content; and finally the people, massed in assembly or court or convened as
lawmakers, made the decisions, either yes or no, or choosing between alternatives.[citation needed]

The administration was in the hands of officeholders, for over a thousand years.[citation needed] Something like 1100
citizens (including the members of the council of 500) held office each year. They were mostly chosen by lot, with a
much smaller (and more prestigious) group of about 100 elected. Neither was compulsory; individuals had to
nominate themselves for both selection methods. In particular, those chosen by lot were citizens acting without
particular expertise. This was almost inevitable since, with the notable exception of the generals (strategoi), each
office could be held by the same person only once.
Part of the ethos of democracy, however, was the building of general competence by ongoing involvement. In the 5th
century version of the democracy, the ten annually elected generals were often very prominent, but for those who
had power, it lay primarily in their frequent speeches and in the respect accorded them in the assembly, rather than
their vested powers.
While citizens voting in the assembly were the people and so were free of review or punishment, those same citizens
when holding an office served the people and could be punished very severely. All of them were subject to a review
beforehand that might disqualify them for office and an examination after stepping down. Officeholders were the
agents of the people, not their representatives. Citizens active as office holders served in a quite different capacity
from when they voted in the assembly or served as jurors.
The assembly and the courts were regarded as the instantiation of the people of Athens: they were the people, no
power was above them and they could not be reviewed, impeached or punished. However, when an Athenian took up
an office, he was regarded as 'serving' the people. As such, he could be regarded as failing in his duty and be
punished for it.
There were in fact some limitations on who could hold office. Age restrictions were in place with thirty (and in some
cases forty[citation needed]) years as a minimum, rendering something like a third of the adult citizen body ineligible at
any one time. An unknown proportion of citizens were also subject to disenfranchisement (atimia), excluding some
of them permanently and others temporarily (depending on the type). Furthermore, all citizens selected were
reviewed before taking up office (dokimasia) at which they might be disqualified.
Competence does not seem to have been the main issue, but rather, at least in the 4th century BC, whether they were
loyal democrats or had oligarchic tendencies. After leaving office they were subject to a scrutiny (euthunai, literally
'straightenings') to review their performance. Both of these processes were in most cases brief and formulaic, but
Athenian democracy 41

they opened up in the possibility, if some citizen wanted to take some matter up, of a contest before a jury court.
In the case of a scrutiny going to trial, there was the risk for the former officeholder of suffering severe penalties.
Finally, even during his period of office, any officeholder could be impeached and removed from office by the
assembly. In each of the ten "main meetings" (kuriai ekklesiai) a year, the question was explicitly raised in the
assembly agenda: were the office holders carrying out their duties correctly?
By and large the power exercised by these officials was routine administration and quite limited. The powers of
officials were precisely defined and their capacity for initiative limited. They administered rather than governed.
When it came to penal sanctions, no officeholder could impose a fine over fifty drachmas. Anything higher had to go
before a court.

Selection by lot (allotment)

Selection by lottery was the standard means as it was regarded as the more democratic: elections would favour those
who were rich, noble, eloquent and well-known, while allotment spread the work of administration throughout the
whole citizen body, engaging them in the crucial democratic experience of, to use Aristotle's words, "ruling and
being ruled in turn" (Politics 1317b2830). The allotment of an individual was based on citizenship rather than merit
or any form of personal popularity which could be bought. Allotment therefore was seen as a means to prevent the
corrupt purchase of votes and it gave citizens a unique form of political equality as all had an equal chance of
obtaining government office.
The random assignment of responsibility to individuals who may or may not be competent has obvious risks, but the
system included features meant to obviate possible problems. Athenians selected for office served as teams (boards,
panels). In a group someone will know the right way to do things and those that do not may learn from those that do.
During the period of holding a particular office everyone on the team is observing everybody else. There were
however officials such as the nine archons, who while seemingly a board carried out very different functions from
each other.
No office appointed by lot could be held twice by the same individual. The only exception was the boule or council
of 500. In this case, simply by demographic necessity, an individual could serve twice in a lifetime. This principle
extended down to the secretaries and undersecretaries who served as assistants to magistrates such as the archons. To
the Athenians it seems what had to be guarded against was not incompetence but any tendency to use office as a way
of accumulating ongoing power.

During an Athenian election, approximately one hundred officials out of a thousand were elected rather than chosen
by lot. There were two main categories in this group: those required to handle large sums of money, and the 10
generals, the strategoi. One reason that financial officials were elected was that any money embezzled could be
recovered from their estates; election in general strongly favoured the rich, but in this case wealth was virtually a
Generals were elected not only because their role required expert knowledge but also because they needed to be
people with experience and contacts in the wider Greek world where wars were fought. In the 5th century BC,
principally as seen through the figure of Pericles, the generals could be among the most powerful people in the polis.
Yet in the case of Pericles, it is wrong to see his power as coming from his long series of annual generalships (each
year along with nine others). His office holding was rather an expression and a result of the influence he wielded.
That influence was based on his relation with the assembly, a relation that in the first instance lay simply in the right
of any citizen to stand and speak before the people. Under the 4th century version of democracy the roles of general
and of key political speaker in the assembly tended to be filled by different persons. In part this was a consequence
of the increasingly specialised forms of warfare practiced in the later period.
Athenian democracy 42

Elected officials too were subject to review before holding office and scrutiny after office. And they too could be
removed from office at any time that the assembly met. There was also a death penalty for "inadequate performance"
while in office.

Individualism in Athenian democracy

Another interesting insight into Athenian democracy comes from the law that excluded from decisions of war those
citizens who had property close to the city walls[citation needed] - on the basis that they had a personal interest in the
outcome of such debates because the practice of an invading army at the time was to destroy the land outside the
A good example of the contempt the first democrats felt for those who did not participate in politics can be found in
the modern word 'idiot', which finds its origins in the ancient Greek word , idits, meaning a private person,
a person who is not actively interested in politics;[13] such characters were talked about with contempt, and the word
eventually acquired its modern meaning. According to Thucydides, Pericles may have declared in a funeral oration:
We do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say
that he has no business here at all.

Criticism of the democracy

Athenian democracy had many critics, both ancient and modern. Modern critics are more likely to find fault with the
narrow definition of the citizen body, but in the ancient world the complaint, if anything, went in the opposite
direction. Ancient authors were almost invariably from an elite background for whom giving poor and uneducated
people power over their betters seemed a reversal of the proper, rational order of society. For them the demos in
democracy meant not the whole people, but the people as opposed to the elite.
Instead of seeing it as a fair system under which 'everyone' has equal rights, they saw it as the numerically
preponderant poor tyrannizing over the rich. They viewed society like a modern stock company: democracy is like a
company where all shareholders have an equal say regardless of the scale of their holding; one share or ten thousand,
it makes no difference. They regarded this as manifestly unjust. In Aristotle this is categorized as the difference
between 'arithmetic' and 'geometric' (i.e. proportional) equality. Those writing in later centuries generally had no
direct experience of democracy themselves.
To its ancient detractors the democracy was reckless and arbitrary. They had some signal instances to point to,
especially from the long years of the Peloponnesian War.
The ten treasurers of the Delian league (Hellenotamiai) had been accused of embezzlement. They were tried and
executed one after the other until, when only one was still alive, the accounting error was discovered and that last
surviving treasurer was acquitted. This was perfectly legal in this case, but an example of the extreme severity
with which the people could punish those who served them. (Antiphon 5.6970)
In 406 BC, after years of defeats in the wake of the annihilation of their vast invasion force in Sicily, the
Athenians at last won a naval victory at Arginusae over the Spartans. After the battle a storm arose and the
generals in command failed to collect survivors: the Athenians tried and sentenced six of the eight generals to
death. Technically, it was illegal, as the generals were tried and sentenced together, rather than one by one as
Athenian law required. Socrates happened to be the citizen presiding over the assembly that day and refused to
cooperate (though to little effect) and stood against the idea that it was outrageous for the people to be unable to
do whatever they wanted. Later they repented the executions, but made up for it by executing those who had
accused the generals before them. (A long account in Xenophon Hellenica 1.7.135)
In 399 BC Socrates was put on trial and executed for 'corrupting the young and believing in strange gods'. His
death gave Europe one of the first intellectual martyrs still recorded, but guaranteed the democracy an eternity of
Athenian democracy 43

bad press at the hands of his disciple and enemy to democracy Plato. In the Gorgias written years later Plato has
Socrates contemplating the possibility of himself on trial before the Athenians: he says he would be like a doctor
prosecuted by a pastry chef before a jury of children.
Two coups briefly interrupted democratic rule during the Peloponnesian war, both named by the numbers in control:
the Four Hundred in 411 BC and the Thirty in 404 BC. The focus on number speaks to the drive behind each of
them: to reduce the size of the electorate by linking the franchise with property qualifications. Though both ended up
as rogue governments and did not follow through on their constitutional promises, they began as responses from the
Athenian elite to what they saw as the inherent arbitrariness of government by the masses (Plato in the Seventh
Epistle does remark that the Thirty made the preceding democratic regime look like a Golden Age).
Whether the democratic failures should be seen as systemic, or as a product of the extreme conditions of the
Peloponnesian war, there does seem to have been a move toward correction. A new version of democracy was
established from 403 BC, but it can be linked with both earlier and subsequent reforms (graph paranmn 416 BC;
end of assembly trials 355 BC). For the first time a conceptual and procedural distinction was made between laws
and decrees.
Increasingly, responsibility was shifted from the assembly to the courts, with laws being made by jurors and all
assembly decisions becoming reviewable by courts. That is to say, the mass meeting of all citizens lost some ground
to gatherings of a thousand or so which were under oath, and with more time to focus on just one matter (though
never more than a day). One downside was that the new democracy was less capable of rapid response.
Another tack of criticism is to notice the disquieting links between democracy and a number of less than appealing
features of Athenian life. Although democracy predated Athenian imperialism by over thirty years, they are
sometimes associated with each other. For much of the 5th century at least democracy fed off an empire of subject
states. Thucydides the son of Milesias (not the historian), an aristocrat, stood in opposition to these policies, for
which he was ostracised in 443 BC.
At times the imperialist democracy acted with extreme brutality, as in the decision to execute the entire male
population of Melos and sell off its women and children simply for refusing to became subjects of Athens. The
common people were numerically dominant in the navy, which they used to pursue their own interests in the form of
work as rowers and in the hundreds of overseas administrative positions. Further they used the income from empire
to fund payment for officeholding. This is the position set out by the anti-democratic pamphlet known whose
anonymous author is often called the Old Oligarch.
On the other hand the empire was, more or less, defunct in the 4th century BC so it cannot be said that democracy
was not viable without it. Only then in fact was payment for assembly attendance, the central event of democracy
(Similarly for the period before the Persian wars, but for the very early democracy the sources are very meagre and it
can be thought of as being in an embryonic state).
A case can be made that discriminatory lines came to be drawn more sharply under Athenian democracy than before
or elsewhere, in particular in relation to women and slaves, as well as in the line between citizens and non-citizens.
By so strongly validating one role, that of the male citizen, it has been argued that democracy compromised the
status of those who did not share it.
Male citizenship had become a newly valuable, indeed profitable, possession, to be jealously guarded. Under
Pericles, in 450 BC, restrictions were tightened so that a citizen had to be born from citizen parentage on both
sides. Metroxenoi, those with foreign mothers, were now to be excluded. Traditionally, for the poorer citizens,
local marriage was the norm while the elite had been much more likely to marry abroad as a part of aristocratic
alliance building. A habit of one group in society was thus codified as a law for the whole citizen body, which
thus lost one axis of openness. Many Athenians prominent earlier in the century would have lost citizenship, had
this law applied to them: Cleisthenes, the founder of democracy, had a non-Athenian mother, and the mothers of
Cimon and Themistocles were not Greek at all, but Thracian. As Athens attracted an increasing number of
resident aliens (metics), this shift in the definition of citizen worked to keep the immigrant population more
Athenian democracy 44

sharply distinguished politically.

Likewise the status of women seems lower in Athens than in many Greek cities. At Sparta women competed in
public exercise so in Aristophanes' Lysistrata the Athenian women admire the tanned, muscular bodies of their
Spartan counterparts and women could own property in their own right, as they could not at Athens. Misogyny
was by no means an Athenian invention, but it has been claimed that in regard to gender democracy generalised a
harsher set of values derived, again, from the common people.[citation needed] Democracy may well have been
impossible without the contribution of women's labour (Hansen 1987: 318).
Slavery was more widespread at Athens than in other Greek cities. Indeed the extensive use of imported
non-Greeks ("barbarians") as chattel slaves seems to have been an Athenian development. This triggers the
parodoxical question: Was democracy "based on" slavery? It does seem clear that possession of slaves allowed
even poorer Athenians owning a few slaves was by no means equated with wealth to devote more of their
time to political life. But whether democracy depended on this extra time is impossible to say. The breadth of
slave ownership also meant that the leisure of the rich (the small minority who were actually free of the need to
work) rested less than it would have on the exploitation of their less well-off fellow citizens. Working for wages
was clearly regarded as subjection to the will of another, but at least debt servitude had been abolished at Athens
(under the reforms of Solon at the start of the 6th century BC). By allowing a new kind of equality among citizens
this opened the way to democracy, which in turn called for a new means, chattel slavery, to at least partially
equalise the availability of leisure between rich and poor. In the absence of reliable statistics all these connections
remain speculative. However, as Cornelius Castoriadis pointed out, other societies also kept slaves but did not
develop democracy. Even with respect to slavery the new citizen law of 450 BC might have had effect: it is
speculated that originally Athenian fathers had been able to register for citizenship offspring had with slave
women (Hansen 1987:53), which rested on an older, less categorical sense of what it meant to be a slave.[citation

Although metics had no direct political influence many were wealthy business owners who could, and sometimes
did, influence policy by not allowing their citizen employees time off to attend the assembly, as well as having the
simple expedient of wealth.
Contemporary opponents of majoritarianism (arguably the principle behind Athenian democracy) call it an illiberal
regime (in contrast to liberal democracy) that allegedly leads to anomie, balkanization, and xenophobia. Proponents
(especially of majoritarianism) deny these accusations, and argue that any faults in Athenian democracy were
because the franchise was quite limited (only male citizens could vote women, slaves and non-citizens were
excluded). Despite this limited franchise and the absence of the Roman notion of Separation of powers, Athenian
democracy is still lauded by its modern proponents as the first example of a working direct democracy.

Alexander the Great had led a coalition of the Greek states to war with Persia in 336 BC, but his Greek soldiers were
hostages for the behavior of their states as much as allies. His relations with Athens were already strained when he
returned to Babylon in 324 BC; after his death, Athens and Sparta led several Greek states to war with Macedon and
This led to the first of a number of periods in which an outside power controlled Athens;[15] Often the outside power
set up a local agent as political boss in Athens; but when Athens was independent,[16] it operated under its traditional
form of government; even the bosses, like Demetrius of Phalerum, kept the traditional institutions in formal
An independent Athens was a minor power in the Hellenistic age; it rarely had much in the way of foreign policy; it
generally remained at peace, allied either with the Ptolemaic dynasty, or later, with Rome; when it went to war, the
result (as in the Lamian, Chremonidean, and Mithridatic War) was usually disastrous.
Athenian democracy 45

Under the Roman alliance, the more oligarchic parts of the Athenian constitution, the Areopagus and election of
officials, became relatively more important, and the Assembly and selection by lot less so. After about 125 BC, the
eponymous archon, and probably the others, were normally prominent men, and this oligarchic tendency appears to
have been produced by a system of election.
In 88 BC, there was a revolution under the philosopher Athenion, who persuaded the Assembly to agree to elect
whomever he might ask to office.[citation needed] Athenion allied with Mithridates of Pontus, and went to war with
Rome; he was killed during the war, and was replaced by Aristion. The victorious Roman general, Publius Cornelius
Sulla, left the Athenians their lives and did not sell them into slavery; he also restored the previous government, in
86 BC.
After Rome became an Empire under Augustus, the nominal independence of Athens dissolved and its government
converged to the normal type for a Roman municipality, with a Senate of decuriones.[17]

References and sources

[1] http:/ / en. wikipedia. org/ w/ index. php?title=Template:Democracy& action=edit
[2] Henderson, J. (1993) Comic Hero versus Political Elite pp.307-19 in
[3] Raaflaub, Kurt A. (2007): The Breakthrough of Demokratia in Mid-Fifth-Century Athens, p. 112, in:
[4] Xenophon, Anabasis 4.4.15
[5] http:/ / homepages. gac. edu/ ~arosenth/ 265/ Athenian_Democracy. pdf
[6] http:/ / books. google. co. il/ books?id=calr-oiSrTEC& pg=PA9& lpg=PA9& dq=hyperides+ fragment+ 13+ attica+ slaves+ 150,000&
source=bl& ots=DMiYE61pBU& sig=y_kT7I9-R7Gndh1Mp_rUcX9Xi4Y& hl=en& sa=X& ei=e5WAUsztNOTG7AbqxYHgDQ&
ved=0CC0Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage& q=hyperides%20fragment%2013%20attica%20slaves%20150%2C000& f=false
[7] http:/ / www. agathe. gr/ democracy/ slaves_and_resident_aliens. html
[8] Aristophanes Acharnians 1722.
[9] Aristoph. Ekklesiazousai 378-9
[10] Hignett, History of the Athenian Constitution, 237
[11] Hignett, History of the Athenian Constitution, 238
[12] Hignett, History of the Athenian Constitution, 241
[13] Goldhill, S., 2004, The Good Citizen, in Love, Sex & Tragedy: Why Classics Matters. John Murray, London, 179-94.
[14] Thucydides, The Peloponnesian Wars, Book 1:22 (Rex Warner translation)
[15] 322-318 BC; 317-307 BC; 266-229 BC (all Macedon); 58-55 BC (Rome).
[16] It rarely controlled all of Attica, since Piraeus was an excellent naval base, and one of the Hellenistic kings usually controlled it.
[17] Habicht, passim

Habicht, Christian, Athens from Alexander to Antony, Havard 1997 ISBN 0-674-05111-4
Hansen M.H. 1987, The Athenian Democracy in the age of Demosthenes. Oxford ISBN 978-0806131436
Hignett, Charles. A History of the Athenian Constitution (Oxford, 1962) ISBN 0-19-814213-7
Manville B. and Josiah Ober 2003, A company of citizens : what the world's first democracy teaches leaders
about creating great organizations. Boston
Meier C. 1998, Athens: a portrait of the city in its Golden Age (translated by R. and R. Kimber). New York
Ober, Josiah 1989, Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens: Rhetoric, Ideology and the Power of the People.
Ober, Josiah and C. Hendrick (edds) 1996, Demokratia: a conversation on democracies, ancient and modern.
Rhodes P.J.(ed) 2004, Athenian democracy. Edinburgh
Sinclair, R. K. 1988. Democracy and Participation in Athens. Cambridge University Press.
Athenian democracy 46

External links
Ewbank, N. The Nature of Athenian Democracy (
Athenian+Democracy), Clio History Journal, 2009.

Fifth-century Athens
Fifth-century Athens is the Greek city-state of Athens in the time from 480 BC-404 BC. This was a period of
Athenian political hegemony, economic growth and cultural flourishing formerly known as the Golden Age of
Athens with the latter part The Age of Pericles. The period began in 478 BC after defeat of the Persian invasion,
when an Athenian-led coalition of city-states, known as the Delian League, confronted the Persians to keep the
liberated Asian Greek cities free. After peace was made with Persia in the mid the 5th century BCE, what started as
an alliance of independent city-states became an Athenian empire when Athens abandoned the pretense of parity
among its allies and relocated the Delian League treasury from Delos to Athens, where it funded the building of the
Athenian Acropolis and put half its population on the public payroll and maintained dominating naval power in the
Greek world. With the empire's funds, military dominance and its political fortunes guided by statesman and orator
Pericles, Athens produced some of the most influential and enduring cultural artifacts of the Western tradition. The
playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides all lived and worked in 5th century BCE Athens, as did the
historians Herodotus and Thucydides, the physician Hippocrates, and the philosopher Socrates. Athens' patron
goddess was Athena, from whom they derived the name.

During the golden age, Athenian military and external affairs were mostly entrusted to the ten strategoi (or generals)
who were elected each year by the ten tribes of citizens, who could be relied on rather than the variable-quality
magistrates chosen by lot under the democracy. These strategoi were given duties which included planning military
expeditions, receiving envoys of other states and directing diplomatic affairs. During the time of the ascendancy of
Ephialtes as leader of the democratic faction, Pericles was his deputy. When Ephialtes was assassinated for
overthrowing the elitist Council of the Aeropagus, Pericles stepped in and was elected strategos in 445 BCE, a post
he held continuously until his death in 429 BCE, always by election of the Athenian Assembly.
Pericles was a great speaker; this quality brought him great success in the Assembly, presenting his vision of politics.
One of his most popular reforms was to allow thetes (Athenians without wealth) to occupy public office. Another
success of his administration was the creation of the misthophoria (, which literally means paid
function), a special salary for the citizens that attended the courts as jurors. This way, these citizens were able to
dedicate themselves to public service without facing financial hardship. With this system, Pericles succeeded in
keeping the courts full of jurors (Ath. Pol. 27.3), and in giving the people experience in public life. As Athens' ruler,
he made the city the first and most important polis of the Greek world, acquiring a resplendent culture and
democratic institutions.
The sovereign people governed themselves, without intermediaries, deciding matters of state in the Assembly.
Athenian citizens were free and only owed obedience to their laws and respect to their gods. They achieved equality
of speech in the Assembly: the word of a poor person had the same worth as that of a rich person. The censorial
classes did not disappear, but their power was more limited; they shared the fiscal and military offices but they did
not have the power of distributing privileges.
The principle of equality granted to all citizens had dangers, since many citizens were incapable of exercising
political rights due to their extreme poverty or ignorance. To avoid this, Athenian democracy applied itself to the
task of helping the poorest in this manner:
Concession of salaries to public functionaries.
Fifth-century Athens 47

To seek and supply work to the poor.

To grant lands to dispossessed villagers.
Public assistance for war widows, invalids, orphans and indigents.
Other social help.
Most importantly, and in order to emphasize the concept of equality and discourage corruption and patronage,
practically all public offices that did not require a particular expertise were appointed by lot and not by election.
Among those selected by lot to a political body, specific office was always rotated so that every single member
served in all capacities in turn. This was meant to ensure that political functions were instituted in such a way as to
run smoothly, regardless of each official's individual capacity.
These measures appear to have been carried out in great measure since the testimony has come to us from, (among
others, the Greek historian Thucydides (c. 460 - 400 BCE), who comments: Everyone who is capable of serving the
city meets no impediment, neither poverty, nor civic condition...


The magistrates
The magistrates were people who occupied a public post and formed the administration of the Athenian state. They
were submitted to rigorous public control. The magistrates were chosen by lot, using fava beans. Black and white
beans were put in a box and depending on which color the person drew out they obtained the post or not. This was a
way of eliminating the personal influence of rich people and possible intrigues and use of favors. There were only
two categories of posts not chosen by lot, but by election in the Popular Assembly. These were strategos, or general,
and magistrate of finance. It was generally supposed that significant qualities were needed to exercise each of those
two offices. A magistrate's post did not last more than a year, including that of the strategoi and in this sense the
continued selection of Pericles year after year was an exception. At the end of every year, a magistrate would have to
give an account of his administration and use of public finances.
The most honored posts were the ancient archontes, or archons in English. In previous ages they had been the heads
of the Athenian state, but in the Age of Pericles they lost their influence and power, although they still presided over
Every year the citizens elected ten "strategoi" (singular "strategos"), or generals, who served as both military officers
and diplomats. It was through this position that Pericles shaped 5th-century BCE Athens.
There were also more than forty public administration officers and more than sixty to police the streets, the markets,
to check weights and measures and to carry out arrests and executions.

The Assembly of the People

The Assembly (in Greek, , that is to say, an assembly by summons), was the first organ of the democracy.
In theory it brought together in assembly all the citizens of Athens, however the maximum number which came to
congregate is estimated at 6,000 participants. The gathering place was a space on the hill called Pnyx, in front of the
Acropolis. The sessions sometimes lasted from dawn to dusk. The ecclesia occurred forty times a year.
The Assembly decided on laws and decrees which were proposed. Decisions relied on ancient laws which had long
been in force. Bills were voted on in two stages: first the Assembly itself decided and afterwards the Council or
gave definitive approval.
Fifth-century Athens 48

The Council or Boule

The Council or Boule ()consisted of 500 members, fifty from each tribe, functioning as an extension of the
Assembly. These were chosen by chance, using the system described earlier, from which they were familiarly known
as "councillors of the bean"; officially they were known as prytaneis (, meaning "chief" or "teacher").
The council members examined and studied legal projects, supervised the magistrates and saw that daily
administrative details were on the right path. They oversaw the city state's external affairs. They also met at Pnyx
hill, in a place expressly prepared for the event. The fifty prytaneis in power were located on grandstands carved into
the rock. They had stone platforms which they reached by means of a small staircase of three steps. On the first
platform were the secretaries and scribes; the orator would climb up to the second.

The economic resources of the Athenian State were not
excessive. All the glory of Athens in the Age of
Pericles, its constructions, public works, religious
buildings, sculptures, etc. would not have been possible
without the treasury of the Delian League. The treasury
was originally held on the island of Delos but Pericles
moved it to Athens under the pretext that Delos wasn't
Reproduction of an Athenian tetradrachma with the image of Pallas safe enough. This resulted in internal friction within the
Athena protector of the city on the front and an owl symbol league and the rebellion of some city-states that were
of wisdom on the back (c. 490 BC) members. Athens retaliated quickly and some scholars
believe this to be the period wherein it would be more
appropriate to discuss an Athenian Empire instead of a league.

Other small incomes came from customs fees and fines. In times of war a special tax was levied on rich citizens.
These citizens were also charged permanently with other taxes for the good of the city. This was called the system of
liturgy. The taxes were used to maintain the triremes which gave Athens great naval power and to pay and maintain a
chorus for big religious festivals. It is believed that rich Athenian men saw it as an honor to sponsor the triremes
(probably because they became leaders of it for the period they supported it) or the festivals and they often engaged
in competitive donating.

Athenians in the Age of Pericles

The Athenian elite lived modestly and without great luxuries, compared to the elites of other ancient states. There
were very few great fortunes and land ownership was not concentrated: 71-73% of the population owned 60-65% of
the land.[1] The economy was based on maritime commerce and manufacturing, according to Amemiya's estimates,
56% of Athens' GDP was derived from manufacturing.[2] Agriculture was also important, but it did not produce
enough to feed the populace, so most food had to be imported (it is estimated that the carrying capacity of Attica's
soil was between 84,000 and 150,000,[3] while the population was 300,000 to 350,000 in 431 BC).
The state oversaw all the major religious festivals. The most important one was the Panathenaia in honor of the
goddess Athena, a ritual procession carried out once a year in May and once every four years in July, in which the
town presented a new veil (peplos) to the old wooden statue of Athena Poliada. Phidias immortalized this procession
in the frieze of the Parthenon, which is currently at the British Museum. In the July Panathenaia (Great
Panathenaia), large competitions were organized which included gymnastics and horseback riding, the winners of
which received amphoras full of sacred olive oil as a prize. The other important festival was the dramatic Dionysia in
honour of Dionysus where tragedies and comedies were performed.
Fifth-century Athens 49

The education of boys began in their own home up until the age of seven when they had to attend school. There, they
had several teachers who taught them to read and write, as well as subjects such as mathematics and music. Boys
also had to take part in physical education classes where they were prepared for future military service with activities
such as wrestling, racing, jumping and gymnastics. At eighteen they served in the army and were instructed on how
to bear arms. Physical education was very intense and many of the boys ended up becoming true athletes. In addition
to these compulsory lessons, the students had the chance to discuss and learn from the great philosophers,
grammarians and orators of the time. Some poor people had to stay at home and help their parents. However
Aristophanes and Socrates, though they were poor, became famous and successful.

The Athenian woman dedicated herself solely to the care of the home. Family homes contained a space, called the
gynaceum, especially for women, where they would spend the day with their servants and young children. Athenian
society was a patriarchy in which men held all the rights and advantages, and had access to education and power.
However, some women, known as hetaeras, received a careful education so that they could have more complex
conversations with men. The closest historical comparison for these women who were regarded higher than normal
women, but lower than men, are the Geisha of Japan. Among these was Aspasia of Miletus, who was the mistress of
Pericles and is said to have debated with prominent writers and thinkers, including Socrates.

Arts and literature

HistoriansWikipedia:Avoid weasel words consider the
Athenian 5th and 6th centuries BCE as the Golden Age
of sculpture and architecture. In this period the
ornamental elements and the technique employed did
not vary from the previous period. What characterizes
this period is the quantity of works and the refinement
and perfection of the works. Most were religious in
nature, mainly sanctuaries and temples. Some examples
from this period are:

The reconstruction of the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

View of the Acropolis The reconstruction of the Temple of Apollo in
Delphi, which was destroyed by an earthquake.
The reconstruction of the Acropolis of Athens, the marble city for the glory of the gods. The site had suffered
from a fire started by the Persians and lay in ruins for more than 30 years. Pericles initiated its reconstruction with
white marble brought from the nearby quarry of Pentelicon. The best architects, sculptors and workers were
gathered to complete the Acropolis. The construction lasted 20 years. Financing came from the Delian League.
When finished, it was the grandest and most perfect monument in the history of Greek art.Wikipedia:Avoid
weasel words

Phidias is consideredWikipedia:Manual of Style/Words to watch#Unsupported attributions the greatest sculptor of
this era. He created colossal gold-plated marble statues ("chryselephantine statues"), generally face and hands, which
were highly celebrated and admired in his own time: Athena, situated in the interior of the Parthenon, whose
splendor reached the faithful through the open doors, and Zeus in the Sanctuary of Olympia, considered in its age
and in later ages to be one of the marvels of the world. The Athenians were assured that after they had contemplated
Fifth-century Athens 50

this statue it was impossible to feel unlucky ever again.[citation needed]

According to Pliny the Elder's Natural History, in order to conserve the marble of these sculptures, oil receptacles
were placed in the temples so that the ivory would not crack.
The other great sculptors of this century were Myron and Polycletus.

During this age, the production of ceramic pieces was abundant. Amphorae were produced in mass quantity due to
the heavy trading with other cities all around the Mediterranean. Large evidence of amphorae from this era can be
found around every major ancient port as well as in the Aegean sea. During this period is also seen an abundance of
white background ceramics which are much more delicate than the previously popular yellow and black background
ceramics. These ceramics were often used to keep perfume or for mortuary rites, including decorations on graves.
It is also known that there were many great painters, but their works are lost, both frescos and free-standing
paintings.[citation needed]

The theatre reached its greatest height in the 5th century BCE. Pericles promoted and favored the theatre with a
series of practical and economic measures. The wealthiest families were obligated to care for and to sustain the
choruses and actors. By this means, Pericles maintained the tradition according to which theatrical performances
served the moral and intellectual education of the people. Plays were made by men and usually for men, and this
platform was often used to reinforce the patriarchy.
Athens became the great city of Greek theatre. Theatrical performances lasted eight consecutive hours and were
performed as part of a competition in which a jury proclaimed a winner. While the decor of the provisional theatres
was very simple, the permanent theatrical venues of ancient Athens eventually became more sumptuous and
elaborate. No matter the performance venue, plays were performed by, at most, three actors, who wore masks to
identify them with the characters they portrayed; they were accompanied by a chorus who sang and danced.
The dramatic poets from this era whose plays have survived are:
Aeschylus (525456 BC)

Philosophers and writers

The Golden Age featured some of the most renowned Western philosophers of all time. Chief among these were
Socrates, whose ideas exist primarily in a series of dialogues by his student Plato, who mixed them with his own;
Plato; and Plato's student, Aristotle.
Other notable philosophers of the Golden Age included Anaxagoras; Democritus (who first inquired as to what
substance lies within all matter, the earliest known proposal of what is now called the atom or its sub-units);
Empedocles; Hippias; Isocrates; Parmenides; Heraclitus; and Protagoras.
In the second half of the 5th century BCE the name of sophist (from the Greek sophists, expert, teacher, man of
wisdom) was given to the teachers that gave instruction on diverse branches of science and knowledge in exchange
for a fee.
In this age, Athens was the "school of Greece". Pericles and his mistress Aspasia associated with and had not only
great Athenians but also foreigners from within Greece and even outside Greece. Among them were the philosopher
Anaxagoras, the historian Herodotus and the architect Hippodamus of Miletus, who reconstructed Peiraeus.
Fifth-century Athens 51

Among the most notable were the historians Herodotus (484425), who described the Greco-Persian Wars;
Thucydides (460395), who wrote the History of the Peloponnesian War; and Xenophon (427335), who left a
useful source of information about the first years of the 4th century BC.
Athens was also the capital of eloquence. Since the late 5th century BC, eloquence had been elevated to an art form.
There were the logographers () who wrote courses and created a new literary form characterized by the
clarity and purity of the language. It became a lucrative profession. It is known that the logographer Lysias (460380
BC) made a great fortune thanks to his profession.[citation needed] Later, in the 4th century BCE, the orators Isocrates
and Demosthenes also became famous.

End of the Age of Pericles

Pericles governed Athens throughout the 5th century BC bringing to the city a splendour and a standard of living
never previously experienced. All was well within the internal regiment of government, however discontent within
the Delian League was ever increasing. The foreign affairs policies adopted by Athens did not reap the best results;
members of the Delian League were increasingly dissatisfied. Athens was the city-state that dominated and
subjugated the rest of Greece and these oppressed citizens wanted their independence.
Previously, in 550 BC, a similar league between the cities of the Peloponnessusdirected and dominated by
Spartahad been founded. Taking advantage of the general dissent of the Greek city-states, this Peloponnesian
League began to confront Athens. After long lasting series of poorly managed, hawkish policies, (ca. 431 B.C.E.) the
city of Athens finally lost its independence in 338 BC, when Philip II of Macedonia conquered the rest of Greece.

[1] http:/ / www. princeton. edu/ ~pswpc/ pdfs/ ober/ 051001. pdf
[2] Economy and Economics of Ancient Greece, Routledge, 2007
[3] http:/ / www. princeton. edu/ ~pswpc/ pdfs/ morris/ 120509. pdf

This article draws heavily on the corresponding article in the Spanish-language Wikipedia, which was accessed
in the version of 28 August 2005. That article, in turn, cites:
Maurice: Egypte, Orient, Grce. Bordas, s/l, 1963.
Charles: Historia Universal Oriente y Grecia. Daniel Jorro, Madrid, 1930.
Article Sources and Contributors 52

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ChrisGualtieri, Chuckiesdad, Clarkcj12, Codreachfm, Colonies Chris, CommonsDelinker, Cowardly Lion, Cplakidas, Cynwolfe, DARTH SIDIOUS 2, Dale Arnett, Daniel Case, Daonguyen95,
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Ancient Greek cuisine Source: Contributors: 069952497a, 4pq1injbok, Ace Class Shadow, Agne27, Aiko, Alansohn, Aldux, Andrew
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Women in ancient Sparta Source: Contributors: 2 CHAINZZZZZZ, Ajraddatz, AnakngAraw, BigDwiki, Carablair, ClaretAsh,
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Spartan Constitution Source: Contributors:, AvicAWB, BD2412, Catalographer, Cplakidas, Esrever, Hmains, John of Reading,
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File:Lonidas- Sparte.JPG Source: License: Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0,2.5,2.0,1.0 Contributors:
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