Helots could not own property and so could not rise to become full-citizens, and this lack of social mobility would come back to haunt Sparta in later centuries. Sparta functioned under an oligarchy of two hereditary kings. Gods of Death How old is the United States of America? These names suggest that military strength and success was an important part of becoming a Spartan leader, a tradition that would continue on throughout Spartan history. On the second day, it was more of the same, giving hope to the idea that the Greeks might actually win. The fall of Lydia (the kingdom that controlled much of modern-day Turkey up until the Persians invaded) in c. 650 BCE, meant the Greeks living in Ionia were now under Persian rule. It may also explain Sparta’s reputation as being a conservative state slow to make decisions in foreign policy. At the age of 20, Spartan men would become warriors of the state. Sparta was, however, an ally with Athens in the defence of Greece against the invasion of Persian king Xerxes, and fought with distinction at Thermopylae in 480 BCE and at Plataea one year later. The newly granted status meant Spartan men could live at their homes, most of the Spartans were farmers but the helots would work the land for them. Athens also lent support to Argos, but then the Corinthians withdrew. They gathered their fleet and Sparta lost several naval battles near the Peloponnesian coast. The Spartans chronicles the rise and fall of one of the most extreme civilisations the world has ever witnessed. But the Spartan army clarified the situation by gathering and matching into Boeotia. Thebes had been forced to allow Sparta to pass through its territory as they marched north towards Macedon, a sign of Thebes subjugation to Sparta. This likely came from the fact that Spartan women, often left alone by their husbands during times of war, became the administrators of men’s property, and if their husbands died, that property often became theirs. Sparta continued to be an important trading center throughout medieval times, and it is now a district in the modern-day nation of Greece. Even though women did not go to war, they were very strong and capable too. Because of their history and significance to society, Sparta’s two kings still played an important role in helping Sparta rise to power and become the significant city state it was, despite their role being limited by the formation of the gerousia. Another important event, or series of events, that took place in the years leading up to the final stage of the war was Athens attempts to expand. While the city of Sparta wasn't constructed until the first millennium B.C., recent archaeological discoveries show that Sparta was an important site at least as far back as 3,500 years ago. Just how these different political elements interacted is not known for certain but clearly a degree of consensus was necessary for the state apparatus to function. His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common. Spartan society was separated into social classes, and conquered people were not given political rights or citizenship. The terms they offered were the same – all Greek city states would remain free and independent – but they also suggested that refusing these terms would bring out the wrath of the Persian empire. They achieved this status during the Greco-Persian wars especially the Battle of Thermopylae when a small force of Greeks led by 300 Spartan soldiers managed to fend off Xerxes and his massive armies, which included the then-superior Persian Immortals, for three days, inflicting heavy casualties. This war, often referred to as simply The Peloponnesian War, played an important role in Spartan history as it led to the fall of Athens and the rise of the Spartan Empire, the last great age of Sparta. Training in this school was grueling and intense. Eira. Plague had broken out in Athens due in part to the Athenian decision to abandon the land in Attica and open the city’s doors to any and all citizens loyal to Athens, causing overpopulation and propagating disease. The Battle of Thermopylae took place in early August of 480 BCE, but because the city of Sparta was celebrating the Carneia, a religious festival held to celebrate Apollo Carneus, the chief deity of the Spartans, their oracles forbid them from going to war. Cite This Work However, unlike their neighbors to the north, Athens, Sparta was hardly a cultural epicenter. Ancient History Encyclopedia Limited is a non-profit company registered in the United Kingdom. The Spartans killed weak children. Athens won a few surprising victories over the much more powerful Spartan army, the most significant of which was the Battle of Pylos in 425 BCE. It was founded by the Dorian tribes living in the region, but interestingly, Sparta came into existence not as a new city but rather as an agreement between four villages in the Eurotas Valley, Limnai, Kynosoura, Meso, and Pitana, to merge into one entity and combine forces. Here is a map of Sparta as it relates to the relevant geographical points in the region: Before delving into the ancient history of the city of Sparta, here is a snapshot of the important events in Spartan history: The story of Sparta typically begins in the 8th or 9th century B.C with the founding of the city of Sparta and the emergence of a unified Greek language. If they believed that a baby was too weak, they left it out to die of exposure beside a slope on Mount Taygetus. Reduced by constant wars in the 5th and 4th centuries BCE, the Spartan hoplites (homoioi) became dangerously small in number (8,000 in 490 BCE to 700 in 371 BCE), so much so, that non-Spartiate soldiers had to be enlisted and their loyalty and interest in Sparta’s ambitions was questionable. These youths pursued rigorous athletic and military training which became even more demanding from the age of 20, when they joined common mess halls (syssition) where they often formed homoerotic relations with older, more experienced citizens. Cartwright, M. (2013, May 28). This resulted in the First Battle of Hysiae, which started a conflict between Argos and Sparta that would result in Sparta finally bringing all of Messenia under its control. Fighting didn’t restart until c. 415 BCE. Power was held onto by an oligarchic faction, and individual freedoms for non-Spartans were severely restricted, although Spartan women may have had much better conditions than women living in other parts of the ancient Greek world. In the former battle they arrived too late to participate and in the latter mobilised only a token force as they felt compelled to first celebrate the Karneia festival in honour of Apollo. iPhone History: A Timeline of Every Model in Order Mason-Dixon Line The History of Guns, The Beginning of Spartan History: Conquering the Peloponnese, Sparta in the Greco-Persian Wars: Passive Members of an Alliance, The Formation of the Peloponnesian League, The Ionian Revolt and the First Persian Invasion, A New Era in Spartan History: The Spartan Empire, The Battle of Leuctra: The Fall of Sparta, The Battle of Marathon: The Greco-Persian Wars Advance on Athens, The History of Salt in Ancient Civilizations, iPhone History: A Timeline of Every Model in Order, Goal: The Story of How Women’s Soccer Rose to Fame, 950-900 BCE – The four original villages, Limnai, Kynosoura, Meso, and Pitana, come together to form the, 743-725 BCE – The First Messenian War gives Sparta control over large portions of the Peloponnese, 670 BCE – The Spartans are victorious in the second Messenian War, giving them control over the entire region of Messenia and giving them hegemony over the Peloponnese. spär´tə [key], city of ancient Greece, capital of Laconia, on the Eurotas (Evrótas) River in the Sparta is located on the sweeping Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece in the Laconian region. Routledge, 2002. Those who resisted were dealt with by force, and most of the people who were not killed were made into slaves, known as helots in Sparta. Fortunately for us, the Greeks began using a common language sometime in the 8th century BCE, and this has provided us with a number of primary sources which we can use to uncover the ancient history of the city of Sparta. Before the Persians were defeated, the Spartans had to kill a lot of Persians. This proved that the Theban-led Boeotian League had finally surpassed Spartan power and was ready to assume its position as the hegemon of ancient Greece. Sparta grew to rival the size of the city-states Athens and Thebes by subjugating its neighboring region of Messenia. The Spartan soldier, also known as a hoplite, looked the same as any other Greek soldier. There was also a council of five men called the ephors who watched over the kings. Routledge, 2013. Some factions tried to muster up support for an invasion of Persia in response to these demands, but there was little appetite for war at the time, so all parties agreed to peace. Because of this, Sparta would have been a highly unequal society where wealth and power were accumulated into the hands of the few and those without citizen status were denied basic rights. They were also given the freedom to learn to protect themselves whenever necessary. Trade amongst the various Greek city states helped ensure mutual prosperity, and alliances helped to establish a balance of power that kept the Greeks from fighting too much amongst themselves, although there were conflicts. In c. 670 BCE, Sparta, perhaps as part of an attempt to expand its control in the Peloponnese, invaded territory controlled by Argos, a city state in northeastern Greece that had grown to be one of Sparta’s biggest rivals in the region. But both Athens and Sparta were also required to give up the territories they had conquered in the early parts of the war. Education was very military focused for boys and girls, so most of the skills they learnt in school were combative and war centered. However, perhaps more importantly, the city state Sparta was built on the banks of the Eurotas River, which runs down from the highlands of the Peloponnese and empties into the Mediterranean. Long proponents of isolationism, the Spartan citizens now saw themselves alone atop the Greek world. The Spartan society was known for its highly-skilled warriors, elitist administrators, and its reverence for stoicism, people today still look to the Spartans as model citizens in an idealist ancient society. Their terms were to restore the independence and autonomy of all Greek city states, but this was rejected by Thebes, mainly because it had been building up a base of power on its own through the Boeotian League. Fearing the Athenians would advance on their territory, the Spartans sailed back to Boeotia and encouraged the people to revolt, which they did. They failed, and thanks to the support of the Spartans and the Corinthians, Syracuse remained independent. Artemisium was chosen because its narrow straits gave the Greeks a similar advantage, and also because stopping the Persians at Artemisium would prevent them from advancing too far south towards the city state of Athens. However, in doing this, they escalated tensions even further. A second and lower social group was the helots, semi-enslaved agricultural labourers who lived on Spartan-owned estates. Bradford, Alfred S. Leonidas and the Kings of Sparta: Mightiest Warriors, Fairest Kingdom. However, Agesilaus II would never be able to complete his planned attack in Asia because the Persians, eager to distract the Spartans, began assisting many of Sparta’s enemies in Greece, which meant the Spartan king would need to return to Greece to keep Sparta’s hold on power. For example, as compared to Athens where women were restricted from going outside, had to live in their father’s house, and were required to wear dark, concealing clothing, Spartan women were not only allowed but encouraged to go outside, exercise, and wear clothing that allowed them more freedom. For example, the Odyssey and the Iliad, which were written in the 8th century BCE, were based on wars and conflicts fought during Mycenaean times, specifically the Trojan War, and they played an important role in creating a common culture amongst the divided Greeks, even though their historical accuracy has been called into question and they have been deemed pieces of literature, not historical accounts. It is not merely that communism in Sparta was a communism in use, others having produced. Agesilaus II took his troops into Phrygia and began planning for an attack. Both contemporary and ancient historians have marveled at how the Spartans were so well trained. At the top of society were Spartiate. However, the Greco-Persian Wars were just getting started, and soon the city state of Sparta would be thrown into the mix. After this conflict, the Romans overthrew the Spartan monarch, ending Sparta’s political autonomy. Athens and Sparta: Constructing Greek political and social history from 478 BC. Olympus. When Rome entered the scene, Sparta assisted it in the Punic Wars against Carthage, but Rome later teamed up with Sparta’s enemies in ancient Greece during the Laconian War, which took place in 195 BCE, and defeated the Spartans. He was not a royal. Leotychidas II (c. 491 -469 BCE) – helped lead Sparta during the Greco-Persian War, taking over for Leonidas I when he died at the Battle of Thermopylae. In addition, Spartan women could also move around with reasonable freedom, they could enjoy athletics (done in the nude like men), and even drink wine. However, as a free city in the Roman world things did improve for Sparta, and the city enjoyed good relations with her conquerors but the end finally came for Sparta in 396 CE when the Visigoth king Alaric sacked the city. Helen was said to have been the most beautiful woman in Greece and Spartan women in general enjoyed a reputation not only for good looks but also spirited independence. The two sides collided once again in Boeotia, the region to the north of Attica where Thebes is located. There was also an executive committee of five ephors (ephoroi) chosen by lot from the citizen body, able only to serve for a maximum of one year and who were ineligible for future office. Based on the extravagant buildings and palaces they built, the Mycenaeans are believed to have been a very prosperous culture, and they laid the foundation for a common Greek identity which would serve as a basis for the ancient history of Greece. The city was also in constant rivalry with the other major Greek cities of Athens and Corinth and became involved in two protracted and hugely damaging conflicts, the Peloponnesian Wars of the mid- to late 5th century BCE and the Corinthian Wars of in the early 4th century BCE. Cartwright, Mark. Young and old, male or female, athletics would be something that everyone in Sparta would be involved in. However, responding to pleas from Athens and the rest of Greece, and also recognizing the consequences of inaction, the Spartan king at the time, Leonidas, amassed an “expeditionary force” of 300 Spartans. These individuals were bonded laborers who eventually made up the bulk of Sparta’s workforce and military, but, as one would expect in a situation of slavery, they were denied many basic rights. Though Sparta absorbed this population, it did not integrate the conquered people into society. As a result, Sparta was in turmoil, and the defeat at the Battle of Leuctra all but relegated Sparta to the annals of history. But it would not last long, and in the grand scheme of things, Sparta was about to enter a final period that can be defined as decline. In Sparta, which had always been proud of its own autonomy and isolationism, this growth in Athenian influence represented a threat, and their actions to fight against Athenian imperialism helped escalate tensions between the two sides and bring about the Peloponnesian War. During Mycenaean times, the Achaeans were the most likely the dominant group. To link to this article in the text of an online publication, please use this URL: https://historycooperative.org/ancient-sparta-the-history-of-the-spartans/. Spartan Classes population of Lacedaemonian state was divided from the oldest time in three classes: Spartiates (the upper class), Perioikoi (The Middle Class) and Helots (The Lower Class and some slaves). Sparta was the only ancient Greek polis where girls were allowed to receive a full-scale education. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 28 May 2013. He had fought with the Spartans in the Battle of Coronea in 394 BC. Young and old, male or female, athletics would be something that everyone in Sparta would be involved in. In antiquity, time periods were recorded by the names of the ephors on a list that dated back to 754 bc. The assembly (Ekklēsia) met once a month and was open to all citizens who voted by the simple method of shouting. ABC-CLIO, 2011. Many believe this arrangement was made because of the nature of the founding of Sparta; the combining of four, and then five, towns meant that leaders of each needed to be accommodated, and this form of government made this possible. 499 BCE – The Ionian Greeks revolt against Persian rule, starting the Greco-Persian War. The Spartan phalanxes were unstoppable on land and known for their professionalism and discipline. Instead, Spartan society was based around the military. To be a member of these already exclusive leading parties, one had to be a Spartan citizen, and only Spartan citizens could vote for the gerousia. Sparta was unique in ancient Greece for its social system and constitution, which were supposedly introduced by the semi-mythical legislator Lycurgus. This council of elders helped the kings manage the governance and responsibilities. Some theories suggest the Dorians were nomadic pastoralists who gradually made their way south as the land changed and resource needs shifted, whereas others believe the Dorians had always existed in the Peloponnese but were oppressed by the ruling Achaeans. He was meant to attack the city of Deres with the support of the Argives, but he did so before his allies had the chance to arrive, which caused the battle to end without a conclusive result. Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War. This treatment of the Athenians is evidence of a change of perspective in Sparta. This condition once again shows how Athens and Sparta were trying to find a way for both to coexist despite the massive power of each. Since the time of Lycurgus, the Spartan lawgiver, the women of Sparta were very much aware of their role in society. Sparta and Lakonia: a regional history 1300-362 BC. Meanwhile, the Spartan fleet sailed around the Aegean to liberate cities from Athenian control, but they were beaten by the Athenians at the Battle of Cynossema in 411 BCE. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Of course, they were far from equals, but they were afforded freedoms unheard of in the ancient world. Athenian society was a patriarchy; men held all rights and advantages, such as access to education and power. While other city states in ancient Greece relied on citizen-militia, Sparta had at its disposal an organized army known for its discipline and fighting prowess (Grant 24). Helots significantly outnumbered free citizens: there were seven slaves per one Spartan. To cite this article in an academic-style article or paper, use: Matthew Jones, "Ancient Sparta: The History of the Spartans", History Cooperative, May 18, 2019, https://historycooperative.org/ancient-sparta-the-history-of-the-spartans/. Then, Sparta made a public declaration of the independence of Delphi, which was a direct rebuke to the Athenian hegemony that had been developing since the beginning of the Greco-Persian Wars. Besides, the city of Sparta was formed by them. However, while the city state of Sparta was a significant player both in Greece and the rest of the ancient world starting in the mid 7th century BCE, Sparta’s story ends abruptly. Last modified May 28, 2013. They were also given the freedom to learn to protect themselves whenever necessary. The conquered peoples of Messenia and Laconia, known as perioikoi, had no political rights in Sparta and were often made to serve with the Spartan army. Spartan society has always generated fascination in Western civilization throughout its history. Fighting took place at both land and sea throughout 394 BCE, but in 393 BCE, political stability in Corinth divided the city. French historian Francios Ollier in his book The Spartan Mirage (1943) argued that what we know about Spartan society is a literary construct by ancient sources that deliberately present the society in a particular view. Mount Taygetus is seen in the distance. Site of the Menelaion, the ancient shrine to Helen and Menelaus, overlooking the later Doric city of Sparta. However, shortly after the beginning of the final millennium BCE, civilization once again began to flourish, and the city of Sparta was to play a pivotal role in the ancient history of the region and the world. This body consisted of 28 over-60 years of age males who held the position for life. Die Helotengefahr und der Peloponnesische Bund," Historische Zeitschrift 273 (2001) 1-24. In ancient Sparta, athletics was a massive part of life. Agesilaus II (c. 401-360 BCE) – Commanded the Spartan army during the period of the Spartan empire. Social structure and political organisation 2.1 The issue of Lycurgus (the Great Rhetra) 2.2 Roles and privileges of the two kings 2.3 Government: ephorate, gerousia, ekklesia Furthermore, Spartan women were not allowed to participate in politics, but they did have the right to own property. According to Aristotle, they killed some 5 percent of the city’s population, dramatically changing the course of history and earning Sparta the reputation of being undemocratic. The gerousia was a council of 28 men over the age of 60. They also helped advice the kings in various m… This brought the total Greek force at Thermopylae to around 7,000, as compared to the Persians, who had around 180,000 men in their army. Here, only a small number of Persian soldiers could advance at one time, which leveled the playing field and increased the Greeks’ chances of success. Spartans believed in a life of 'discipline, self denial, and simplicity,' and so the purpose of education was, simply, to produce an army. 479 BCE- the Spartans lead the Greek force at the Battle of Plataea and win a decisive victory over the Persians, ending the Second Persian Invasion of ancient Greece. The Ancient History Encyclopedia logo is a registered EU trademark. At the same time, possibly even on the same day, the Greeks sailed after the Persian fleet stationed on the island of Samos and engaged them at Mycale. Furthermore, he fought in a phalanx, which is an array of soldiers designed to create a strong line of defense by having each soldier protect not only himself but the soldier sitting next to him using a shield. Sparta was a militaristic society in ancient Greece that became mighty and powerful after defeating its rival neighbor, Athens, in the Peloponnesian War. "Sparta." Hellenistic and Roman Sparta. 1. Both royal families, the Agiads and the Eurypontids, claimed ancestry with the gods. We do not have an exact date for the founding of the city state of Sparta, but most historians place it sometime around 950-900 BCE. At the peace conference, however., Sparta refused to sign the treaty if Thebes insisted on signing it in Boeotia. This regional instability brought about the Peloponnesian League (c. 505 to 365 BCE) which was a grouping of Corinth, Elis, Tegea, and other states (but never Argos), where each member swore to have the same enemies and allies as Sparta. The result of the conflict was the ‘King’s Peace’ where Sparta ceded her empire (for which she in any case lacked the necessary bureaucratic apparatus to manage properly) to Persian control but Sparta was left to dominate Greece. The First Peloponnesian War was more of a series of skirmishes and battles than an outright war. It was a military society whose warriors are regarded as some of the ancient world's greatest soldiers. Though Sparta absorbed this population, it did not integrate the conquered people into society. Here, Sparta lost the Battle of Tangara, which meant Athens was able to take control over much of Boeotia. Sparta was the commander of all Greek armies during the Greco-Persian wars. But it was still an important part of the ancient world that is worth studying and understanding. License. The helots could keep a percentage of the produce they cultivated, but they were also regularly purged to keep them firmly in their social place and they could also be conscripted into military duties in times of war. In addition to local politics, from the 6th century BCE Sparta began to broaden her horizons by, for example, creating an alliance with Croesus of Lydia and sending an expedition against Polycrates of Samos in c. 525 BCE. Furthermore, Athens was now faced with the possibility of being caught in between Sparta and the now-powerful Thebes, so, in 371 BCE, Athens asked for peace. In ancient Sparta, athletics was a massive part of life. However, neither Athens nor Thebes really wanted to engage Sparta in a land battle, for their armies were still superior.