POLITICS AND SOCIETY OF ANCIENT SPARTA
According to the sources, how important were the helots to the Spartan social structure? (45 marks)
The Helots were enslaved Greeks, captured by the Spartans, who performed many important duties in Sparta, including working the land to produce food and crafting items that the Spartans wouldn’t make themselves . According to the sources, the Helots were particularly important in the social structure of Sparta. Although they were useful and important, they were the lowest class in the Spartan society and were kept under constant surveillance to prevent any uprising, which the Spartans were frequently paranoid about.
Plutarch tells us that the helots “worked the land for them.” This shows that they were an incredibly important part of the society as each Spartiate needed to contribute a certain amount of food for the messes, and a Spartiate himself wouldn’t work the land himself as the key focus for a Spartiate was to become as physically fit as possible in order to create a strong military force. On the other hand, it implies that they are not nearly as important as the Spartiates themselves who were banned from any manual work. In Xenophon chapter 1 we are told that helot women even made clothes for Spartans, “Lycurgus felt that slave girls were perfectly capable of producing garments as the Spartan women also had to train to produce healthier offspring. This suggests that the Spartans depended on the helots even if they were not respected. Again in Plutarch chapter 24, we are told that, “working at a craft and at money making is only fit for slaves” which shows that these are the kind of essential jobs the Spartans left to the Helots, whilst the Spartans trained in military arts.
The helots were also used as a form of entertainment as described in Plutarch 28 when he says the Spartans would “order them to perform songs and dances which were vulgar and ludicrous.” This shows that the helots were important in the fact...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document