Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 3

The Spartan citizen sacrificed much freedom.

With reference to source A and your own source material, discuss the truth of this statement in relation to other social groups in Sparta. Source A It will be understood that when Lycurgus first came to deal with the question, the Spartans like the rest of the Hellenes, used to mess privately at home. Tracing more than half the current misdemeanours to this custom, he was determined to drag his people out into the daylight and so he invested the public mess rooms. Whereby he expected at any rate to minimise the transgressions of orders... as to drink he putting a stop to all unnecessary potations, detrimental alike to a firm brain and a steady gait, he left them free to quench a thirst when nature dictated. In other states the individual is master over his own children servants and belongings generally: but Lycurgus whose aim was to secure to a citizens a considerable share in on another's good without mutual injury, enacted that each one should have equal power of his neighbour's children as he has over his own. The stereotypical representation of Spartan society as distinctly austere and conservative is not necessarily a completely true nor accurate representation of Spartas culture. There are large gaps in knowledge of Sparta and its customs, and existing evidence is incomplete, ambiguous and not necessarily reliable, possibly biased. However, what we can deduce is that while it outwardly appeared that Spartiate citizens lived by a strict set of laws, in reality they had a level of freedom to do as they liked in many aspects of their life, as long as it was within rules. Spartiates enjoyed political, economic, and social freedom to a certain degree; nevertheless popular perception of the Spartan lifestyle is certainly substantiated by Plutarchs accounts of Sparta as a very restricted culture. Spartan practices and customs reflected Lycurgus laws that dictated many aspects of the Spartan lifestyle, such as military, educational and social. Furthermore, only the homoioi, Spartiate citizens, and Spartan women were allowed a degree of liberty as they were at the top of the social hierarchy: other classes such as the periokoi, the disgraced class, and helots were denied much their dignity and prerogative to differing degrees, but all to a significant extent. Despite Spartas frugal reputation, richly decorated Lakonian pottery, elaborate bronzework, and fine ivory carvings reveal that Sparta was, at least at one point in time, a materially advanced society. Massimo Nafissi, a Spartan scholar interpreted the proliferation of fine goods in the 7th century BC as an indication of the newfound wealth of Spartan hoplites after their triumph in the Messenian Wars, manifested in the aristocratic tastes of some Spartans. This suggests the existence of economic
1 Rachel Yang

inequality amongst Spartiates, until Lycurgus laws reshaped Spartan society. The frugality for which Sparta is famous for was a result of the socio-economic and political reforms that Lycurgus implemented that were fully in place by the 5th century BC, where Lycurgus laws stressed an equality of goods, and bans were placed on an ostentatious flouting of wealth, and there appears to be a gradual levelling in society, at least in the display of wealth. (Brennan, 2007). Hence the term homoioi, similars or peers, being applied to them. The homoioi also had to wear the same type of clothing, rather like a uniform, to reinforce their equal status. The red military cloak, the phoinikis, and their everyday cloak, the tribon, was symbolic of Spartan culture. In spite of the seeming rigidity of Lycurgus laws, exemplified by the ban on conspicuous consumption, this did not disallow them the pursuit of hobbies and interests. Indeed, Plutarch stresses that the lawgiver did not want Spartans to waste their time in idleness: as all homoioi were allocated land and helots, it was not necessary for them to work and they were forbidden from commerce and trade. Most of their time was devoted to compulsory military training and service as part of the elite hoplite unit. In their (abundant) free time they were encouraged to socialise and mingle in the agora, or the town square, or to take up leisure activities such as hunting, athletics, equestrian sports, and banqueting, music, dancing, poetry, cockfighting and boarfighting. They also participated in the ekklesia, the general assembly of all Spartan citizens which gave them voting rights upon legislation initiated by the gerousia, the Council of Elders. It also gave them the opportunity to be elected as one of five ephors, who held supreme power rivalling that of the kings. The creation of the Spartan mess, the syssition, as described in source A, he was determined to drag his people out into the daylight and so he invested the public mess-rooms to minimise the transgressions of orders (Xenophon, The Polity of the Lacedaemonians), was attributed to Lycurgus. He decreed that all men were required to join a dining group, of which daily attendance was mandatory. Not being accepted by any mess led to social exclusion and disgrace. The food was plain, simple, unappetising (as epitomised by the infamous black pork broth), and there was just enough to satisfy their hunger. It mirrored the strictness of Spartan society. Moreover, as to drink he putting a stop to all unnecessary potations, detrimental alike to a firm brain and a steady gait drunkenness was considered shameful and it was heavily discouraged. Women were also freed from most traditional duties such as child-rearing and weaving due to the helots role in the oikos, the Spartan household. Women were free to take part in the same leisure activities as men. Spartan women were also renowned for their wealth as they were allowed to possess and inherit property and wealth. They were not required to stay at home either, and had considerable social freedom. Although they were not allowed to take part in politics, some Spartan women were known to be quite opinionated and exerted influence over Spartan
2 Rachel Yang

politics. Young Spartan girls were not trained in the agoge, but Lycurgus prescribed exercises and activities for their upbringing and training, that furthered Spartas military interests. They were trained intensively to attain fit bodies that would produce strong, healthy offspring, for better creation of better soldiers. On the other hand, the disgraced class, stripped of their citizenship for not doing their duty or breaking rules, were forced to wear clothing different to that of the homoioi. Their uniform of exclusion subjected them to humiliation because it clearly marked them as inferior, to be ridiculed and disdained. The outcasts consisted mostly of those who had failed to marry and produce offspring, and tresors, cowards who had surrendered or fleed from battle. Old bachelors were forced to parade in a circle naked in the agora annually as punishment. Tresors wore a distinctive cloak with coloured patches and forced to shave off half of their beard and keep half growing, perhaps carrying implications of being a half-man. Helots were also inferior to the outcasts: they were the absolute lowest class of Spartan society and frequently belittled. It was considered both amusing and instructive to occasionally bring in helots and get them drunk in order to demonstrate how shameful it was to be unable to stand because of the effects of wine (Brennan, 2007). They were also terrorised to remind them of Spartas dominance over them, due to the ratio of helots outnumbering that of the Spartan they were particularly concerned and fearful of being overwhelmed by the helot population. Helots had to wear bestial uniform and dress in the animals skin, dehumanising and degrading them by associating them with animal inferiority. The periokoi were not considered citizens but they were certainly not slaves, and inferior to Spartiates but superior to helots. They were considered half-citizens: they served in the Spartan army and fought as hoplites, but not considered a part of Spartan society. The periokoi were merchants and subject to taxation, as Lycurgus had forbidden Spartan citizens from engaging in industry. They had economic freedom and presumably also in most other aspects, as they werent governed strictly by Sparta. However, not much is known about them due to the lack of written history about them and lack of physical evidence. General consensus that Spartan society limited its peoples liberty is not entirely unfounded, but there is much evidence that clarifies the fact that Spartiate citizens, as well as women to a certain extent, had quite a great degree of freedom. However, other subordinate classes such as the helots, outcasts, and periokoi were subjugated and dismissed by the Spartans and deprived of their freedom, and this fact is overlooked when looking at Spartan society as a whole.

3 Rachel Yang