Lecture 3 - Sparta, the Other Polis and The Persian Wars

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17 Jul 2011
CLA160HLecture 3JULY8/2011
Sparta: The Other Polis and The Persian Wars
Early 5th century BCE
Athenocentrism and Elite Bias
Athenocentrism: all sources from Athens point of view; focuses more on Athens
Elite Bias: sources from aristocrats, who have the time for education
Wrote the Constitution of the Spartans
Exiled to Sparta
Oligarchic leanings
Wrote Life of Lycurgus, etc.
Lives in Rome
1st century CE
Writes biographies of important people tends to be rich aristocrats (example of elite bias)
Because of Athenocentrism and biases, theres a lack of information regarding Sparta thats solely from
Spartan point of view
Theres no concrete evidence of art, statues, workshops, written and other archaeological
sources from Sparta
Most sources of information about Sparta, history and such, can be found from Athens and
the elite class
In the Peloponnese; situated in Laconia
Also known as Lacedaemon
Far away from the sea; landlocked therefore, no navy
Has a strong army/infantry
To deal with overpopulation that came after the Dark Ages, Sparta expanded to surrounding areas
instead of colonizing overseas
They took over neighbouring states that became serfs, and its people were known as helots
These helots worked the land for the Spartan
Laconia, subdued in the 8
th century BCE
Due to the Spartans expansion, war started between Sparta and Messenia (the area they tried to
expand to)
The war was known as the First Messenian War (740s to 720s BCE)
The result of the war was Messenians lost freedom and status downgraded to a helot status
Helots outnumber the Spartans and presented a constant threat
Resulted in the development of a military society
Since helots were in control of the agriculture, Spartan citizens were free to focus on military
Spartas purpose is to produce a militarized society
A second Messenian War (680 to 660 BCE) occurred as a result of helot revolt, in an attempt to
regain their freedom back
Lycurgus, the leader of the Spartans travelled to Delphi to ask what he could do to maintain order
He returned to Sparta with a set of laws, Lycurgus Laws, that has rules for everything (i.e.
length of ones beard, how to dress, etc.)
For Spartans, military life begins at a young age.
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