Spartan Social Structure Essay

2. Social structure and political organisation 

2.1 The issue of Lycurgus (the Great Rhetra)

Lycurgus and Spartan Government
- Lycurgus was a historical figure who  handed down the laws of Sparta, after consulting with the will of the Gods and Delphi
- The truth of Lycurgus’ existence is not as important as the relevance and importance placed on him by the Spartans
- Dates range from 9th – 7th centuries BC as to when he is reported to have lived
- He has “God-like” attributes, figure divinely sanctioned
- Lycurgus was used to introduce and explain the changes to Spartan society
- Tyrtaeus’ poem EUNOMIA reflects the way in which the Spartan society was set to good order – something that is believed to be achieved by Lycurgus’ laws

2.2 Roles and privileges of the two kings

Why were the two kings an important part of Spartan government in this period? (4 marks) 4/4
The dual monarchy (unity/synoecism) of the Spartan Kings is an important aspect of the Spartan government, as in most monarchy’s, particularly with their contribution to the military and religious spheres of Spartan life. In terms of military duties, as of the 6th century BC, one King would remain in Sparta and continue to rule over the Spartan people while the other was appointed the leader of the military and lead them into battle. This would therefore mean that Sparta’s monarchy was secure as, even if one King was to be killed in battle, the other would remain King and in control within Sparta, ensuring the nation’s stability. Religiously, the general population believed that the Kings were the mortal link to the gods, making them significant to the religious aspect of the Spartan peoples’ lives. 

2.3 Government: ephorategerousiaekklesia 

2.4 Social structure: Spartiates, perioeci, ‘inferiors’, helots 

Full citizens of Sparta
Non-citizens of Sparta whole resided in the surrounding areas of Lakonia
People who were previously citizens, but lost citizenship due to failure to contribute to the community
Hypomeiones - Loss of citizenship (failed to pay taxes)
Tresantes - Cowardice in Battle
Parthenial - Child of a Spartiate father and inferior mother
Neodamodes - Freed Helots
Mothocles - Spartiate children’s adopted helot playmates

Members of Greek areas conquered by the Spartans and turned into their state slaves, half way between slaves and free (based on Athenian treatment of slaves)

2.5 Role of the Spartan army 

- Not only did army develop into most formidable armies in Greek world ensuring Spartan safety from invasion, also preserved Spartan way of life. Military lifestyle traditionally believed to have developed after Messenian Wars when land divided into extra allotments farmed by helots --> full time warriors
- Went through number of changes corresponding with important events in Sparta’s history 

- Peter Connolly suggest continuing decline in population of state, particularly during 5th cent, probably reason for successive reorganisations 

-By 4th cent, had declined to 4000 whom only 1000 were Spartiates, rest made up of perioeci and freed helots 

- Armies of Greece manned by hoplites who fought in phalanx formation. Spartans developed system of training that focussed on what to do if phalanx thrown into confusion and be able to recognise defeat, hence retreat 

- Lack of mobility disadvantage of phalanx fighting but Spartans masters at it due to constant drilling and discipline 

- Chief role of Spartan army to:
                        -Keep helots in check and put down rebellions. Essential to Spartan survival 

                        -Defend Laconia and Messenia 

                        - Be constantly ready for warfare particularly with strong enemy Argos to north. Argos remained Sparta’s enemy despite it being 
                        the leading power in 
Peloponnese in 7th cent 

                        -Maintain leadership of Peloponnesian League 

                        -Support oligarchies 

                        -Maintain hegemony of Greece after Peloponnesian War 

-Originally both Spartan kings led army into battle but form 507BC, one king led army while other stayed Sparta 

-Groups liable for military service in Spartan army: 

                        -Spartiates from 18 – 60 but generally only those 20a50 called up. Those who hadsons to take place were chosen for most 
                        dangerous tasks 

                        -Perioeci selected own men for service. Originally there brigaded separately but were later incorporated into Spartan units 

                        - Scritae, from Scritis in Arcadia, formed special corps, placed on left wing (most vulnerable). Adaptable to any task and often 
                        used as scouts 

                        - Inferiors served in army according to same rules as Spartans. Neodamodeis, helots who distinguished themselves in battle set 
                        - Helots in earlier times used as shield carriers and light skirmishers but after 425, sons of well to do helots volunteered for 
                       service as hoplite 

-Spartan officers, esp most successful regarded with suspicion, and all had limited commands --> to protect Sparta against possible tyranny by successful commander. Weakness: officers couldn’t capitalise on successes or anticipate extended command to complete campaigns. Much internal rivalry 

-When needed to assemble large army to take on anther Greek state, like Athens or Argo, Spartans called upon allied states of Peloponnesian League. Nearest were cities of Arkadia that weren’t considerable but could easily muster several hundred soldiers 

-Larger contingents contributed by distant states like Corinth and Thebes. Probably provided majority of hoplites 

2.6 Control of the helots: the military, syssitiakrypteia 

2.7 Artisans, helots 

2.8 Educational system: agoge 

Birth – 6 years
- At birth, the baby is examined for physical strength and health. Unfit babies were left to perity on Mt Taygetus
- At home, mothers disciplined babies
- Trained early to be unfussy eaters, brave and well mannered
7 – 12 years
           - Moved into the barracks by their 7th year
           - Under the guidance of a paidonomous (supervisor of education and exercised discipline when necessary)
           - Never without supervision
           - Gradually introduced into physical skills
           - At 10 years entered into public competitions
           - Focus was on obedience and group participation
13 – 18 years
           - Trained as a type of cadet soldier
           - Intensive training and honing of survival skills
           - Trialled as non-combatant soldiers
          - Barefoot at all times, one garment for the whole year, exercised naked and limited food. Hair is cropped
          - Participated in the cheese stealing competitions at the Alter of Artemis Orthia
          - At 15 years learned complicated steps and movements to the flute
19 – 24 years
           - Combatant role, but NOT front line
           - 18 – 20 years drilled at huge school
           - Captained by youths of the 20 years and older range
           - Could marry but remained at the barracks
           - Selected youths supervised younger boys
           - Select group created to form the Krypteia, which terrorised helots
           - Still responsible to the older Spartans for their actions

25 – 30 years
           - Became front line soldiers
           - Encouraged to excel
           - Hand picked corps of knights, those who weren’t selected would strive for approval and would seek out any lack of upholding of 
           values to replace them
30+ years
           - Full citizen, if passed all aspects of training
           - Moved out of the barracks, but still dined at the mess each night
           - Eligible for military service until 60 years old
           - Allowed to grow hair – worn with great pride

2.9 Role and status of women: land ownership, inheritance, education 

Land Ownership

- Women played an important role in the transfer of property
- Land ownership was integral to wealth in Sparta
- Marriage alliances ensured property remained in a small circle of elite
- At the beginning of the classical period, Spartan women could inherit part of the family estate, though did not own it and passed to her sons
- At the end of the classical period women could own and manage estates without male guardianship
- Women could own their dowry
- Orphaned heiresses were married off by the kings
- Women managed the estates while men were at war
- To the end of the classical period, women owned two fifths of the land in Sparta    

- Aristotle and Xenophon make it known that by the end of the classical period women could own and manage estates without male guardianship in their writings
- Aristotle in Women’s life in Greece and Rome
- Aristotle feared this would lead to a government of women
- At the beginning of the classical period, Spartan women could inherit part of the family estate, though did not own it and passed to her children
- Spartan women could therefore own some of their land and wealth
- Spartan girls stayed home with their mothers, but were expected to be educated in basic reading and writing
- Girls were organised into bands for group games and choral singing

- Xenophon compared the upbringing of girls to elsewhere in the Greek world with that which prevailed together, explaining that it was Lycurgus who introduced the practice. He also wrote about how Spartan girls were raised in physical training
Marriage Customs
- Married in late teens (physically mature) but in Athens they married in their early teens
- Married in their own social class
- Marriage capture took place (men chose their brides and carried them off inicating little choice by the woman in question)
- Mothers had some influence, suggesting that the capture was more symbolic
- Polygamy was practiced in Sparta    

- Plutarch wrote that Spartan girls married ‘when they were ripe for it’
- Plutarch’s story of Lysander, who betrothed his daughters to several young men. When he died poor the men backed out
--> betrothals took place
--> dowry and wealth were important
- A.J. Ball suggested marriage capture took place
- Plutarch describes the consummation to be that the bride was prepared by the bridesmaid and the bridegroom, after eating at the mess, came sober, consummated the marriage, and left to sleep in his usual quarters    
- There is no mention of Lycurgus in Tyrtaeus’ Eunomia, though it reflects the spirit of the Lycurgan system. This adds to the complication of understanding who Lycurgus was, when his ‘system’ was introduced and what it was.
- “This was the oracle from Apollo that they heard at Delphi, and brought back the God’s decree”
- “First…heaven’s favourites, the Kings… After them the commoners”
- “Apollo brought forth this guidance for the state”
- Shows his belief in divine intervention to create the laws and social structure of the Spartans that brought guidance and order
“Lycurgus, who gave [the Spartans] the laws through obeying which they prospered, I regard with admiration and think that he reached the utmost limits of wisdom. For it was not by imitating other states but by conceiving a system utterly different from that of most others that he showed his country to excel in prosperity”
- “Concerning Lycurgus the lawgiver, in general nothing can be said which is not disputed, since indeed there are different accounts of his birth, his travels, his death, and above all, his work as lawmaker and statesman”
- “Timaeus conjectures that there were two Lycurguses at Sparta at different times and that to one of them the achievements of both were ascribed, owing to his greater fame.”
- “Lycurgus was so keen to establish this kind of government that he obtained an oracle from Delphi about it which they call the Rhetra.”
- “‘When you have built a temple to [Zeus] and [Athena], and divided the people into phyla and obai [clans and classes] and established the thirty member Gerousia [Spartan council of elders] including the Archagetai [Kings] from time to time Apellazine (Gather ) between Babyka and Knakion [river/bridge and river] and ths introduce and cancel measures; but the people must have the deciding authority and power’”
- “When the population was thus assembled, they were not able to put a motion but the people did have the authority to decide on the motion put before them by the Gerontes and the Kings. Afterwards however, when the people, by adding and subtracting clauses, destroyed the original sense of the motion put before them, Kings Polydorus and Theopompus inserted a clause into the Rhetra ‘but if the people should adopt a crooked decision, the Gerontes and the Kings shall have the power to adjourn the assembly’ that is the vote should not be ratified and the assembly could be ended.”
Kings - Monarchy
One from the Agiad family
One from the Eurypontid family
Chief functions were military and religious
 - Religious link between man and gods
 - Sacrifice of animals for gods favour
Ephorate - Aristocracy
5 Annually elected magistrates who presided over and carried out important administrative and religious tasks
Elected by popular vote
Gerousia - Oligarchy
Council of 30 members
28 Aristocratic men over the age of 60
The two Kings
All members elected for life
Ekklesia - Democracy
Assembly of all male citizens over the age of 30 excluding the slave class
Voted on legislation
Elected the Gerousia
Annually elected the Ephors
Roles and Responsibilities
- Craftsmen/labourers
- Pay respects to passed kings
- Join in Sparta’s military efforts
- Procure metals and manufacture weapons
- Herodotus, writing on the Persian wars, says that the Spartans sent out 5000 troops ‘and with them went 5000 picked Lakedaemonians troops drawn from the outlying towns’
- Bronze figurine of Hercules with an engraved gem at Gymtheum
- Limestone funerary relief found in Petrina
- Marble hero relief
- To farm the land
- To serve the state
- To serve their masters
- To serve in times of war
- Theopompus tells us the helots were the enslaved populations of Messina and Lakonia owned by the state of Sparta
- Tyrtaeus compared helots to ‘asses exhausted under great loads’
- Excluded helots, reminding them of place
- Often patrolled the streets to instil fear
- Annually declared war on the helots
- Beat helots without cause
- Myron writes in Sparta and Laconia that the military would beat the helots and often, helots would receive the death penalty as punishment
- Countless helots would die in battle from lack of training and light arms
- Public meals for all adult Spartiates (males)
- Drunken helots were dragged into the mess to be shamed by those eating for entertainment
- Helots provided food to these groups
- Plutarch notes that hunting provided extra food and wheat could have been provided by the rich
- Xenophon notes that Lycurgus used this to incite obedience and prevent poor behaviour
- Similar to a secret police to keep the helots afraid
- Young Spartans armed with daggers roamed the countryside and killed any helots they could find
- Plato saw this as part of Spartan military training
- Plutarch felt they could only murder helots suspected of leading a revolt. Also that some helots were falsely crowned before they mysteriously disappeared

Spartan Government Essay

Evaluate the importance of the following in the Spartan System of government;





All aspects of the Spartan government was arranged into a hierarchy, with a mixed constitution, later praised as being the 'Ideas System'. This system was based on 'Eunomia' or 'Good Order', each part of the constitution played checks and balances on the other. Initially the two Kings and the Gerousia were the most important powers in Spartan government, but over time the Ephors gained a lot more supremacy and dominance. However, the Kings, Gerousia, Ephors, and Apella all play a different role within Spartan society.

Kings were the Supreme commander of the Spartan army. One King led the campaign, while the other stayed in Sparta. "These large powers were always limited by the double nature of kinship." This originated in 507BC, when 2 kings disagreed over the expedition against Athens. The kings had the right to declare war on the battlefield and could decide between life and death. The kings were supervised by the Ephors and had a bodyguard of 100 men. However, the kings could be heavily punished if their campaign failed.

The Kings were intermediaries between the gods and men and held their office as the gods pleased. If things went wrong, the kings were blamed and the ephors looked to the sky every 9 years for approval or disapproval. Each month they offered sacrifices to Apollo as Herodotus recounts, "on the first and seventh days of each month each king is given a full grown animal to offer in sacrifice in the temple of Apollo". Before a campaign, the gods also sacrificed to Zeus and if it was favourable they kept their sacrifices for the campaign.

Erenburg claims that the Kings "had supreme power as leaders in war, priests and judges," however their judicial duties were limited. They did decide on marriages of orphans, control of matters concerning the highways and adoption of Spartan children.

The Kings had many special honours and marks of distinction. They were supported at the expense of the state, and when on military service they were "allowed for their own use as many cattle as they wish." They were treated with much honour and respect, such as the order they were served their meal, first, and they were given double portions. Xenophon claims, "In order that the kings might dine in public he assigned them a public banquet, and he honoured them with a double portion each of the evening meal", in regards to the covenant set by Lykurgas. The kings were also given seats of honour at...

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