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In other Greek city-states, free citizens were part-time soldiers who, when not at war, carried on other trades. Since Spartan men were full-time soldiers, they were not available to carry out manual labour.
Helot women were often used as wet nurses. Helots also travelled with the Spartan army as non-combatant serfs. At the last stand of the Battle of Thermopylae , the Greek dead included not just the legendary three hundred Spartan soldiers but also several hundred Thespian and Theban troops and a number of helots.
There was at least one helot revolt c. Slave revolts occurred elsewhere in the Greek world, and in BCE 20, Athenian slaves ran away to join the Spartan forces occupying Attica.
As the Spartiate population declined and the helot population continued to grow, the imbalance of power caused increasing tension. They assign to the Helots every shameful task leading to disgrace.
Moreover, if any exceeded the vigour proper to a slave's condition, they made death the penalty; and they allotted a punishment to those controlling them if they failed to rebuke those who were growing fat.
Plutarch also states that Spartans treated the Helots "harshly and cruelly": they compelled them to drink pure wine which was considered dangerous — wine usually being cut with water " Each year when the Ephors took office, they ritually declared war on the helots, allowing Spartans to kill them without risk of ritual pollution.
The helots were invited by a proclamation to pick out those of their number who claimed to have most distinguished themselves against the enemy, in order that they might receive their freedom; the object being to test them, as it was thought that the first to claim their freedom would be the most high spirited and the most apt to rebel.
As many as two thousand were selected accordingly, who crowned themselves and went round the temples, rejoicing in their new freedom.
The Spartans, however, soon afterwards did away with them, and no one ever knew how each of them perished. The Perioikoi came from similar origins as the helots but occupied a significantly different position in Spartan society.
Although they did not enjoy full citizen-rights, they were free and not subjected to the same restrictions as the helots.
The exact nature of their subjection to the Spartans is not clear, but they seem to have served partly as a kind of military reserve, partly as skilled craftsmen and partly as agents of foreign trade.
Full citizen Spartiates were barred by law from trade or manufacture, which consequently rested in the hands of the Perioikoi.
Allegedly, Spartans were prohibited from possessing gold and silver coins, and according to legend Spartan currency consisted of iron bars to discourage hoarding.
Allegedly as part of the Lycurgan Reforms in the mid-8th century BCE, a massive land reform had divided property into 9, equal portions.
Each citizen received one estate, a kleros , which was expected to provide his living. From the other half, the Spartiate was expected to pay his mess syssitia fees, and the agoge fees for his children.
However, we know nothing of matters of wealth such as how land was bought, sold, and inherited, or whether daughters received dowries. Attempts were made to remedy this by imposing legal penalties upon bachelors,  but this could not reverse the trend.
Sparta was above all a militarist state, and emphasis on military fitness began virtually at birth. Shortly after birth, a mother would bathe her child in wine to see whether the child was strong.
If the child survived it was brought before the Gerousia by the child's father. The Gerousia then decided whether it was to be reared or not.
Rather than being an exception, then, it has been the rule. When Spartans died, marked headstones would only be granted to soldiers who died in combat during a victorious campaign or women who died either in service of a divine office or in childbirth.
When male Spartans began military training at age seven, they would enter the agoge system. The agoge was designed to encourage discipline and physical toughness and to emphasize the importance of the Spartan state.
Boys lived in communal messes and, according to Xenophon, whose sons attended the agoge , the boys were fed "just the right amount for them never to become sluggish through being too full, while also giving them a taste of what it is not to have enough.
Special punishments were imposed if boys failed to answer questions sufficiently 'laconically' i. Sparta boys were expected to take an older male mentor, usually an unmarried young man.
According to some sources, the older man was expected to function as a kind of substitute father and role model to his junior partner; however, others believe it was reasonably certain that they had sexual relations the exact nature of Spartan pederasty is not entirely clear.
Xenophon, an admirer of the Spartan educational system whose sons attended the agoge , explicitly denies the sexual nature of the relationship.
Some Spartan youth apparently became members of an irregular unit known as the Krypteia. The immediate objective of this unit was to seek out and kill vulnerable helot Laconians as part of the larger program of terrorising and intimidating the helot population.
Less information is available about the education of Spartan girls, but they seem to have gone through a fairly extensive formal educational cycle, broadly similar to that of the boys but with less emphasis on military training.
In this respect, classical Sparta was unique in ancient Greece. In no other city-state did women receive any kind of formal education.
At age 20, the Spartan citizen began his membership in one of the syssitia dining messes or clubs , composed of about fifteen members each, of which every citizen was required to be a member.
The Spartans were not eligible for election for public office until the age of Only native Spartans were considered full citizens and were obliged to undergo the training as prescribed by law, as well as participate in and contribute financially to one of the syssitia.
Sparta is thought to be the first city to practice athletic nudity, and some scholars claim that it was also the first to formalize pederasty.
The agoge , the education of the ruling class, was, they claim, founded on pederastic relationships required of each citizen,  with the lover responsible for the boy's training.
However, other scholars question this interpretation. Xenophon explicitly denies it,  but not Plutarch.
Spartan men remained in the active reserve until age Men were encouraged to marry at age 20 but could not live with their families until they left their active military service at age They called themselves " homoioi " equals , pointing to their common lifestyle and the discipline of the phalanx , which demanded that no soldier be superior to his comrades.
Spartans buried their battle dead on or near the battle field; corpses were not brought back on their hoplons.
Thus the shield was symbolic of the individual soldier's subordination to his unit, his integral part in its success, and his solemn responsibility to his comrades in arms — messmates and friends, often close blood relations.
According to Aristotle, the Spartan military culture was actually short-sighted and ineffective. He observed:. It is the standards of civilized men not of beasts that must be kept in mind, for it is good men not beasts who are capable of real courage.
Those like the Spartans who concentrate on the one and ignore the other in their education turn men into machines and in devoting themselves to one single aspect of city's life, end up making them inferior even in that.
One of the most persistent myths about Sparta that has no basis in fact is the notion that Spartan mothers were without feelings toward their off-spring and helped enforce a militaristic lifestyle on their sons and husbands.
In some of these sayings, mothers revile their sons in insulting language merely for surviving a battle. These sayings purporting to be from Spartan women were far more likely to be of Athenian origin and designed to portray Spartan women as unnatural and so undeserving of pity.
Sparta's agriculture consisted mainly of barley, wine, cheese, grain, and figs. These items were grown locally on each Spartan citizen's kleros and were tended to by helots.
Spartan citizens were required to donate a certain amount of what they yielded from their kleros to their syssitia, or mess.
These donations to the syssitia were a requirement for every Spartan citizen. All the donated food was then redistributed to feed the Spartan population of that syssitia.
The custom was to capture women for marriage The so-called 'bridesmaid' took charge of the captured girl. She first shaved her head to the scalp, then dressed her in a man's cloak and sandals, and laid her down alone on a mattress in the dark.
The bridegroom — who was not drunk and thus not impotent, but was sober as always — first had dinner in the messes, then would slip in, undo her belt, lift her and carry her to the bed.
The husband continued to visit his wife in secret for some time after the marriage. These customs, unique to the Spartans, have been interpreted in various ways.
One of them decidedly supports the need to disguise the bride as a man in order to help the bridegroom consummate the marriage, so unaccustomed were men to women's looks at the time of their first intercourse.
The "abduction" may have served to ward off the evil eye , and the cutting of the wife's hair was perhaps part of a rite of passage that signaled her entrance into a new life.
Spartan women, of the citizenry class, enjoyed a status, power, and respect that was unknown in the rest of the classical world.
The higher status of females in Spartan society started at birth; unlike Athens, Spartan girls were fed the same food as their brothers. The reasons for delaying marriage were to ensure the birth of healthy children, but the effect was to spare Spartan women the hazards and lasting health damage associated with pregnancy among adolescents.
Spartan women, better fed from childhood and fit from exercise, stood a far better chance of reaching old age than their sisters in other Greek cities, where the median age for death was Unlike Athenian women who wore heavy, concealing clothes and were rarely seen outside the house, Spartan women wore dresses peplos slit up the side to allow freer movement and moved freely about the city, either walking or driving chariots.
Girls as well as boys exercised, possibly in the nude, and young women as well as young men may have participated in the Gymnopaedia "Festival of Nude Youths".
In accordance with the Spartan belief that breeding should be between the most physically fit parents, many older men allowed younger, more fit men, to impregnate their wives.
Other unmarried or childless men might even request another man's wife to bear his children if she had previously been a strong child bearer.
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.
Spartan women were also literate and numerate, a rarity in the ancient world. Furthermore, as a result of their education and the fact that they moved freely in society engaging with their fellow male citizens, they were notorious for speaking their minds even in public.
Plato goes on to praise Spartan women's ability when it came to philosophical discussion. Item Variety 8. Graphics 7. Community 8.
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Item Variety 7. Write a Review Cancel reply Your email address will not be published. Item Variety. Search Another Game. In order to see their wives during this time, husbands had to sneak away at night.
In B. In a further blow, late the following year, Theban general Epaminondas c. The Spartans would continue to exist, although as a second-rate power in a long period of decline.
In ,Otto , the king of Greece, ordered the founding of the modern-day town of Sparti on the site of ancient Sparta. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!
Subscribe for fascinating stories connecting the past to the present. How will it end? Who was the first man? Where do souls go after death? By turns charismatic and ruthless, brilliant and power hungry, diplomatic and The two most powerful city-states in ancient Greece, Athens and Sparta, went to war with each other from to B.
The Peloponnesian War marked a significant power shift in ancient Greece, favoring Sparta, and also ushered in a period of regional decline that signaled the The so-called golden age of Athenian culture flourished under the leadership of Pericles B.
Pericles transformed his The Battle of Marathon in B. The battle was fought on the Marathon plain of northeastern Attica and marked the first blows of the Greco-Persian War.
With the Persians closing in on the Greek capitol, Athenian general Lysander departed Athens to establish decarchies, governing boards of 10 men, elsewhere in the former Athenian Empire, leaving the Spartan garrison under the command of the Thirty.
Taking advantage of a general anti-Spartan backlash and a change of regime in Boeotia to an anti-Spartan government, the exiles and non-Athenian supporters who were promised citizenship launched an attack from Boeotia on Athens under Thrasybulus and in the Battle of Phyle followed by the Battle of Munichia and the Battle of Piraeus defeated the Athenian supporters of the Thirty with the Spartan garrison regaining partial control of Athens.
They set up a decarchy. Athens was on the brink of civil war. Both sides sent delegates to present their case before King Pausanias.
The Thirty were heard first. They complained that Piraeus was being occupied by a Boeotian puppet government.
Pausanias immediately appointed Lysander harmost governor , which required the assent of the ephors , and ordered him to Sparta with his brother, who had been made navarch over 40 ships.
They were to put down the rebellion and expel the foreigners. After the Ten had been fully heard, Pausanias, obtaining the assent of three out of five ephors, went himself to Athens with a force including men from all the allies except the suspect Boeotia and Corinth.
He met and superseded Lysander on the road. A battle ensued against Thrasybulus, whose forces killed two Spartan polemarchs but were driven at last into a marsh and trapped there.
Pausanias broke off. He set up the board of 15 peace commissioners that had been sent with him by the Spartan assembly and invited both sides to a conference.
The final reconciliation restored democracy to Athens. The Thirty held Eleusis, as they had previously massacred the entire population. It was made independent of Athens as a refuge for supporters of the Thirty.
A general amnesty was declared. The Spartans ended their occupation. The former oligarchs repudiated the peace.
After failure to raise assistance for their cause among the other states of Greece, they attempted a coup. Faced with the new Athenian state at overwhelming odds they were lured into a conference, seized and executed.
Eleusis reverted to Athens. Meanwhile, Lysander, who had been recalled to Sparta after his relief by Pausanias, with the assistance of King Agis the second king charged Pausanias with being too lenient with the Athenians.
Not only was he acquitted by an overwhelming majority of the jurors except for the supporters of Agis including all five ephors, but the Spartan government repudiated all the decarchs that had been established by Lysander in former states of the Athenian Empire and ordered the former governments restored.
Sparta's close relationship with Cyrus the Younger continued when she gave covert support to his attempt to seize the Persian throne.
After Cyrus was killed at the Battle of Cunaxa , Sparta briefly attempted to be conciliatory towards Artaxerxes , the Persian king. In late BC, however, Sparta decided to answer an appeal of several Ionian cities and sent an expedition to Anatolia.
Though Persian rule meant to the cities of mainland Asia, the payment of tribute, this seems to have been considered a lesser evil than Spartan rule.
However, these inducements served mainly as encouragement to those who were already resentful of Sparta.
In the event, it was Sparta who made the first aggressive move using, as a pretext, Boeotia's support for her ally Locris against Sparta's ally Phocis.
An army under Lysander and Pausanias was despatched. As Pausanias was somewhat lukewarm to the whole enterprise, Lysander went on ahead.
When Pausanias arrived rather than avenge the defeat he simply sought a truce to bury the bodies. For this Pausanias was prosecuted, this time successfully and went into exile.
At the Battle of Coronea , Agesilaus I , the new king of Sparta, had slightly the better of the Boeotians and at Corinth, the Spartans maintained their position, yet they felt it necessary to rid themselves of Persian hostility and if possible use Persian power to strengthen their own position at home: they therefore concluded with Artaxerxes II the humiliating Peace of Antalcidas in BC, by which they surrendered to the Great King of the Greek cities of the Asia Minor coast and of Cyprus , and stipulated for the autonomy of all other Greek cities.
Finally, Sparta and Persia were given the right to make war on those who did not respect the terms of the treaty. The Boeotian League was broken up on the one hand while the Spartan dominated Peloponnesian League was excepted.
Further, Sparta did not consider that autonomy included the right of a city to choose democracy over Sparta's preferred form of government.
After several years of fighting Olynthus was defeated and the cities of the Chalkidice were enrolled into the Peloponnesian League.
The real beneficiary of this conflict was Macedon , though Paul Cartledge considers it to be indulging in hindsight, to blame Sparta for enabling the rise of Philip II.
The alliance was initially backed by Persia, whose lands in Anatolia had been invaded by Sparta and which feared further Spartan expansion into Asia.
The event severely damaged Sparta's naval power but did not end its aspirations of invading further into Persia, until Conon the Athenian ravaged the Spartan coastline and provoked the old Spartan fear of a helot revolt.
After a few more years of fighting in BC, the Peace of Antalcidas was established, according to which all Greek cities of Ionia would return to Persian control, and Persia's Asian border would be free of the Spartan threat.
The leader of the anti-Spartan faction was executed after a show trial, and a narrow clique of pro-Spartan partisans was placed in power in Thebes, and other Boeotian cities.
It was a flagrant breach of the Peace of Antalcidas. Sparta started this war with the strategic initiative, however, Sparta failed to achieve its aims.
Again the Thebans refused to renounce their Boeotian hegemony, and the Spartan's sent a force under King Cleombrotus in an attempt to enforce Theban acceptance.
When the Thebans gave battle at Leuctra , it was more out of brave despair than hope. As Spartan citizenship was inherited by blood, Sparta now increasingly faced a helot population that vastly outnumbered its citizens.
The alarming decline of Spartan citizens was commented on by Aristotle , who viewed it as a sudden event. Most likely, this was the result of steady shifting of wealth among the citizen body, which was simply not as obvious until laws were passed allowing the citizens to give away their land plots.
Sparta never fully recovered from the losses that it suffered at Leuctra in BC and the subsequent helot revolts.
Nonetheless, it was able to continue as a regional power for over two centuries. By the winter of late BC, King Agesilaus took the field, not against Thebes, but in an attempt to preserve at least a toehold of influence for Sparta in Arkadia.
This backfired when, in response, the Arkadians sent an appeal for help to Boeotia. Boeotia responded by sending a large army, led by Epaminondas , which first marched on Sparta itself and then moved to Messenia where the helots had already rebelled.
Epaminondas made that rebellion permanent by fortifying the city of Messene. The final showdown was in BC, by which time several of Boetia's former allies, such as Mantinea and Elis , had joined Sparta.
Athens also fought with Sparta. The resulting Battle of Mantinea was won by Boetia and her allies but in the moment of victory, Epaminondas was killed.
Only Sparta itself refused because it would not accept the independence of Messenia. Sparta had neither the men nor the money to recover her lost position, and the continued existence on her borders of an independent Messenia and Arcadia kept her in constant fear for her own safety.
She did, indeed, join with Athens and Achaea in BC to prevent Philip II of Macedon passing Thermopylae and entering Phocis , but beyond this, she took no part in the struggle of Greece with the new power which had sprung up on her northern borders.
The final showdown saw Philip fighting Athens and Thebes at Chaeronea. Sparta was pinned down at home by Macedonian allies such as Messene and Argos and took no part.
Sparta alone refused to join Philip's "Corinthian League" but Philip engineered the transfer of certain border districts to the neighbouring states of Argos, Arcadia and Messenia.
A large Macedonian army under general Antipater marched to its relief and defeated the Spartan-led force in a pitched battle.
On his knees, the Spartan king slew several enemy soldiers before being finally killed by a javelin. The memory of this defeat was still fresh in Spartan minds when the general revolt against Macedonian rule known as the Lamian War broke out — hence Sparta stayed neutral.
Even during its decline, Sparta never forgot its claims on being the "defender of Hellenism" and its Laconic wit.
When Philip created the league of the Greeks on the pretext of unifying Greece against Persia, the Spartans chose not to join—they had no interest in joining a pan-Greek expedition if it was not under Spartan leadership.
Thus, upon the conquest of Persia, Alexander the Great sent to Athens suits of Persian armour with the following inscription " Alexander, son of Philip, and all the Greeks except the Spartans , give these offerings taken from the foreigners who live in Asia [emphasis added] ".
Had Demetrius not decided to turn his attention to Macedonia the city would have fallen. They somewhat pulled the moral high ground from under themselves, by looting the area.
It was at this point that the Aetolians caught them and defeated them. Though Aetolia was primarily concerned with confining Achaea, because the cities concerned were hostile to Sparta, Aetolia needed to demonstrate her anti-Spartan credentials.
During the 3rd century BC, a social crisis slowly emerged: wealth had become concentrated amongst about families  and the number of equals who had always formed the backbone of the Spartan army had fallen to less than a tenth of its strong highpoint in the 7th century BC.
His program combined debt cancellation and land reform. Opposition from King Leonidas was removed when he was deposed on somewhat dubious grounds.
However, his opponents exploited a period when Agis IV was absent from Sparta and, on his return he was subjected to a travesty of a trial.
Aratus, who led the Achaean League forces, adopted a very cautious strategy, despite having 20, to Cleomenes men. Cleomenes was faced with obstruction from the Ephors which probably reflected a general lack of enthusiasm amongst the citizens of Sparta.
The ephorate was abolished — indeed four out of five of them had been killed during Cleomenes' seizure of power. Cleomenes gave to Sphaerus , his stoic advisor, the task of restoring the old severe training and simple life.
Historian Peter Green comments that giving such a responsibility to a non-Spartan was a telling indication of the extent that Sparta had lost her Lycurgian traditions.
For others, especially among the poor, Cleomenes inspired hope. This hope was quickly dashed when Cleomenes started taking cities and it became obvious that social reform outside Sparta was the last thing on his mind.
Cleomenes' reforms had as their aim, the restoration of Spartan power. Initially Cleomenes was successful, taking cities that had until then been part of the Achaean League  and winning the financial backing of Egypt.
With Egypt deciding to cut financial aid Cleomenes decided to risk all on one battle. The ephors were restored, whilst the kingship was suspended.
At the beginning of the Social War in BC, envoys from Achaea unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Sparta to take the field against Aetolia.
Sparta then immediately entered the war on the side of Aetolia. The sources on Nabis , who took power in BC, are so uniformly hostile that it is impossible today to judge the truth of the accusation against him — that his reforms were undertaken only to serve Nabis' interests.
Were we to trust the accounts given by Polybius and Livy , we would dismiss him little better than a bandit chieftain, holding Sparta by means of extreme cruelty and oppression and using mercenary troops to a large extent in his wars.
The historian W. Forest is willing to take these accusations at face value including that he murdered his ward, and participated in state sponsored piracy and brigandage — but not the self-interested motives ascribed to him.
He sees him as a ruthless version of Cleomenes, sincerely attempting to solve Sparta's social crisis. It was this point that Achaea switched her alliance with Macedon to support Rome.
As Achaea was Sparta's main rival, Nabis leaned towards Macedonia. It was getting increasingly difficult for Macedonia to hold Argos , so Philip V of Macedon decided to give Argos to Sparta which increased tension with the Achaean League.
Nonetheless, he was careful not to violate the letter of his alliance with Rome. Though the territory under his control now consisted only of the city of Sparta and its immediate environs, Nabis still hoped to regain his former power.
After ravaging the surrounding countryside, Philopoemen returned home. Within a few months, Nabis appealed to the Aetolian League to send troops so that he might protect his territory against the Romans and the Achaean League.
Once there, he compelled the Spartans to join the Achaean League ending their independence. Subsequently, Sparta become a free city in the Roman sense, some of the institutions of Lycurgus were restored  and the city became a tourist attraction for the Roman elite who came to observe exotic Spartan customs.