Ancient History- Sparta Summaries

Topics: Sparta, Battle of Thermopylae, 1st millennium Pages: 19 (4709 words) Published: May 16, 2013
Option 1
Greece: Spartan Society to the Battle of Leuctra 371 BC
1. The Geographical Setting:

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

* Sparta consisted of 5 villages, 4 of which were situated along the Eurotas River - This provided a water supply for the villages.
-The 5th village, Amyclae, was located 5km south of the other villages.

* Laconia was captured by the Dorian people in the 10th century BC - They took control of the land and forced the original inhabitants into 'Helots' or state owned serfs. - These 'Helots' farmed many resources such as barley, wheat, olives, figs, horses, sheep, grapes, cattle, goats and pigs - The mountains surrounding the villages provided a wealth of timber, wild animals, iron and other minerals.

2. Social Structure and political organisation:

2.1 The issue of Lycurgus the lawgiver

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

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

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

* Lycurgus' life was documented by Plutarch.
-According to Plutarch, Lycurgus received the 'Great Rhetora' from the Dephic Oracle, which contained the directions to how Sparta should be run -For the establishment of the Spartan state, the Spartans needed;

o A sanctuary of Zeus
o The organisation of the Spartan society into social units
o The creation of the Gerousia, council with 28 members
o The appointment of two Kings, also part of the Gerousia
o The creation of the general assembly, Ecclesia

2.2 Roles and privileges of the Two Spartan Kings:

* Sparta was ruled by two kings
-Believed that the dual monarchy originated when two Peloponnesian tribes joined together during the 9th century BC -Some historians argue that dual kingship was initiated by Lycurgus as a check and balance approach to ruling. -The families were believed to be able to trace their heritage back to the great god Heracles.

* Privileges of the kings:
-Supported at the expense of the state
-Given the skins of sacrificed animals
-On entering the assembly, everyone rose except the ephors
-Given the seats of honour at religious festivals
-Received part of booty from war

* Military roles
-The kings were the Supreme commanders of the army
-possessed the right to declare Sparta at war at any time
-One of the two kings would go on campaign while the other stayed in Sparta to maintain order
o This is due to an argument about tactics between two kings on the...
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