Sparta

Sparta was an important and powerful city-state in ancient Greece.

It was located in the southeastern portion of Greece along the shoreline of the Eurotas River.

Other regions ruled by Sparta included Laconia and Messenia.

Sparta was known as a warrior society and had a dominant army.

Spartans were not educated or forced to study art, theater, or philosophy. Spartans studied the art of war and how best to dominate their opponent on the battle field.

They had the toughest army of all ancient Greek city-states.

Every Spartan man trained to become a soldier from an early age.

Territory of ancient Sparta

History of Sparta

Sparta first rose to prominence about 650 B.C.E.

The Spartan army led all the ancient Greek city-states in the Persian Wars from 492 B.C.E. until 449 B.C.E. when they defeated the Persians.

The most famous battle by Spartan soldiers happened at Thermopylae during the Persian Wars.

Three hundred Spartan soldiers were instrumental in allowing the ancient Greek army to escape while they fought off hundreds of thousands of Persians led by the Persian King Xerxes.

Sparta was not always friendly with other ancient Greek city-states, especially Athens.

For instance, the Spartans fought the Peloponnesian Wars against Athens for 27 years finally defeating Athens in 404 B.C.E.

As Sparta declined they would lose the Battle of Leuctra to Thebes in 371 B.C.E. Sparta continued to be an independent city-state until 146 B.C.E. when ancient Greece as whole was conquered by the Roman Empire.

Citizens and People of Sparta

There were many types of people that lived in Sparta.

Citizens of Sparta enjoyed more rights such as the right to a fair trial, the right to become a well-trained soldier, and live in the city-state owned barracks.

To become a citizen in Sparta was difficult at times.

A person needed to prove they were of original Spartan descent to become a citizen.

This entailed paying someone to research their heritage.

If a person could not pay for research or prove they were a descendant they could not become a Spartan citizen.

Non-citizens in Sparta were called Perioikoi.

These individuals enjoyed numerous freedoms.

They could travel freely to other cities, trade goods, and they even owned land. Many of the people were of Laconian descent.

The lowest social class of peoples in Sparta was slaves.

These people were called Helots and generally farmed their own lands.

When harvest time came around they were required to hand-over half of their crops to Spartan citizens.

Helots were routinely beaten once a year by Spartan citizens.

They were required to wear clothing made of animal skin and if a Helot was caught while escaping they were killed.

Spartan Army

The Spartan army was a fierce bunch of soldiers.

When the Spartan army entered battle they formed a Phalanx formation.

Soldiers stood next to each other in several rows of men.

They moved forward as one group with their shields, known as an aspis, locked together while stabbing their enemies with a spear called a dory.

Spartan soldiers also carried a small sword named a xiphos.

Their clothing was a crimson colored tunic which did not allow their enemy to see any type of bleeding from a wound.

A Spartan soldier worshipped their shield and it was seen as a disgrace if a Spartan soldier lost his shield during battle.

Spartan helmet on display at the British Museum.

Life in Sparta

Life in Sparta was much different for males and females.

Spartan boys were raised by their mothers until the age of seven years old when they would enter a military type school called an Agoge.

Here they were taught to read and write but mainly trained to fight in the Spartan army.

Spartan boys lived with each other in barracks.

They were beaten daily, given very little food to eat, and they were made to fight each other.

The Agoge was a place that taught Spartan boys how life was during a time of battle.

At the age of 20 years old the boys entered into the Spartan army.

Girls on the other hand also entered school at seven years of age.

They were also taught how to be strong with exercise and athletic sports.

But their school was not a training ground for women soldiers.

Girls were married off by 18 years of age.

Spartan women enjoyed many more freedoms than other ancient Greek women.

They could own businesses, land, and could travel outside the house without permission from their husband or father.

During times of war, Spartan women were expected to take care of everything at home including defending their lands against enemies when needed.

Facts about Sparta

  • Sparta was ruled by an oligarchy and two kings.
  • There were five men called the Ephors who observed the kings. There was also a council of 30 men who along with the two kings created new laws.
  • Each Spartan believed they were a descendent of Hercules, the Greek hero.
  • Spartan men had to be fit to fight until the age of 60 years old when they could retire from the Spartan army.
  • Young Spartan boys stole food regularly. When and if they were caught stealing they were punished for being caught not for stealing.
  • It was not uncommon for Spartans to kill a Helot or a Perioikoi and receive no punishment.
  • Sparta was considered a Warrior Society and if a Spartan family had a deformed or ill child at birth, the child was killed.
  • Spartans did not create beautiful art work like other ancient Greek city-states.

 

FAQ’s

How did Spartans raise their boys?

Boys were raised by their mothers until seven years old. Then they received a military education at the Agoge. Spartan boys were trained at the Agoge to become Spartan soldiers.

What type of rights or freedoms did Spartan girls and women enjoy?

Girls were taught to be fit and have strong families.

They were married by the age of 18 years old. Spartan women could own land, businesses, and they could travel outside their home without permission of the oldest Spartan male in the household.

What is Sparta famous for?

Sparta is famous for being a warrior society. The city-state reached its peak of power after they defeated Athens in the Peloponnesian Wars. Their society was based on military service and loyalty to the city-state.

Where was Sparta located in ancient Greece?

Sparta was located along the banks of the Eurotas River in southeastern Greece.

What were the social classes in Sparta?

Spartan citizens had to prove they were from an original Spartan descendant.

Citizens enjoyed more rights. Perioikoi were people generally from Laconia.

They could own land, trade goods, and travel freely between cities.

Helots were slaves that worked the lands in Sparta.

Perioikois and Helots could be killed at any time for no reason by a Spartan citizen.

What did you learn?

  1. What enemy did the Spartans fight against at the Battle of Thermopylae?

Persians

  1. What was the name of the fighting formation used by the Spartan army?

Phalanx

  1. Sparta defeated Athens in which war?

Peloponnesian Wars

  1. Where did Spartan boys train to become Spartan soldiers?

Agoge

  1. What three types of social classes existed in Sparta?

Spartan citizens, Perioikois, and Helots