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Sparta: Social Structure

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by Nicole Reardon on 6 October 2012

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Transcript of Sparta: Social Structure

Sparta Social Structure Helots - Lowest class Approx. 70% of Spartan population was formed of Helots.
State-owned serfs who lived with families on lands of Spartiates – could not move without government permission.
Duty to provide a fixed amount of produce each year to their masters - could make a profit after meeting this supply.
No legal rights so the state could dispose of them at will. Sometimes killed by the Krypteia to keep them under control.
Often acted as servants to Spartan soldiers during war (batmen) – also served as light armed skirmishers in battle.
A few were freed for state services & bravery, but still had no civic rights – termed 'neodamodes.'
Seen as a constant threat to Spartan security. Were rebellious. Perioikoi 'Dwellers around' Sparta.
Dorian in origin - lived in approx. 100 communities in Spartan controlled areas.
Had no right to formulate Spartan policy.
Couldn't marry Spartiates
If involved in a case with a Spartiate, were brought before the ephors for trial.
Expected to serve as hoplites alongside Spartiates. Didn't receive training.
Contributed to the state economically - Artisan and trading class of Laconia.
Coastal dwellers were fishermen, shipbuilders & sailors in the navy.
Spartan king's revenue came from their estates in the lands of the perioeci.
Self-governing in own communities. Had community citizenship.
Their villages served as a buffer zone against escaping helots. Inferiors Social group between citizens and non-citizens.
Made up of different grounds including:
Illegitimate Spartans - helot mothers & Spartan fathers (Partheniai)
Freed Helots - given freedom due to courageous service in war (Neodamodes)
Adopted playmates - sons of helots adopted as playmates for Spartan boys.
Loss of citizenship - either by failing agoge or not contributing enough to syssition (Hypomeiones) OR by showing cowardice in war (Tresantes). Required to wear specific clothes, be unshaven, exercise alone and couldn't vote or attend the assembly. Spartiates (Homoioi) Original Dorian conquerors of Laconia - never more than 10 000 Spartiates.
Priveledged social class, holding all political power.
Born of Spartan parents & must pass fitness test at birth.
Had to complete education & military requirements (agoge).
Had to be a member of the military mess & contribute food to the syssitia
Forbidden to engage in farming and industry. Thus, alloted public land (kleros) and helots by the state to support them.
Lived by code of honour: courage, loyalty & obedience. 5+7= (cc) image by anemoneprojectors on Flickr Bronze figurine of a cloaked & helmeted Spartan warrior (c. 5th Century) ‘The Spartans left them with considerable freedom. Each town was allowed to govern itself as it chose, provided, of course that it did not try to break away from Sparta or interfere with Spartan policy….It was they who provided all the craftsmen, tradesmen and manufacturers in Laconia, since the Spartans were forbidden to practise these activities. Clothing, shoes, furniture and so on were made by the perioeci then sold to the Spartans. A few examples of drinking cups, statuettes and pottery that have been discovered at Sparta by archaeologists must have been the work of perioeci.’

R. Barrow (1975) Sparta , p26-27 Lykourgos persuaded the citizens to pool all the land and then redistribute it afresh. Then they would all live on equal terms with one another, with the same amount of property to support each, and they would seek to be first only in merit. There would be no distinction or inequality between individuals except for what censure of bad conduct and praise of good would determine.
Acting upon his word Lykourgos distributed the rest of Lakonia to the perioikoi in 30 000 lots, and divided the part subject to the city of Sparta in 9000. This was the number of lots for the Spartiates.

Plutarch, On Sparta, trans. by R. Talbert pp. 16-17. Views on Land Ownership While some of the Spartan citizens have quite small properties, others have very large ones; hence the land has passed into the hands of a few. And this is due to faulty laws; for, although the legislator rightly holds up to shame the sale or purchase of an inheritance, he allows anybody who likes to give or bequeth it. Yet both practices lead to the same result. And nearly two-fifths of the whole country are held by women; this is owing to the number of heiresses and to the large dowries which are customary... indeed, at one time Sparta is said to have numbered not less than 10 000 citizens...[But Lykourgos], wanting to have as many Spartans as he could, encouraged the citizens to have large families; and there is a law at Sparta that the father of three sons shall be exempt from military service, and he who has four from all the burdens of the state. Yet ... if there were many children, the land being distributed as it is, many of them must necessarily fall into property.

Aristotle, cited in D. Kagan, Problems in Ancient History, pp. 209-10 [In the 5th and 4th century], Sparta did not have equality of property... there had been at some stage a distribution of land to enable some citizens to join or remain within the circle of privileged citizens: when this took place and how it took place is uncertain, but one thing is clear enough. The land passed out in that original redivision or redivisions ( if there was more than one) is far more likely to have belonged to outsiders and foreigners than to the great Spartiate landowners.

D. H. Kelly, 'Sparta: Some Myths Ancient and Modern', Hellenika, 1982, p.16. Modern Perspective A shepherd holding a sheep beneath his cloak c. 6 th Century BC. This is a bronze figurine of a banqueter relaxing during a feast. It dates from around 530-500 BC. The poet Tyrtaeus explained that Sparta originally consisted of three main tribes: the Hylleis, Dymanes and Pamphyloi.
At Karneia, split into 9 phratriai.
By 7th C, Sparta divided into 5 territorial obai.
By 5th C, there were distinct social classes in Sparta... Introduction to Social Structure
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