Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/631

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610
SPARTA

of Laconia. In reality this Dorian immigration probably consisted of a series of inroads and settlements rather than a single great expedition, as depicted by legend, and was aided by the Minyan elements in the population, owing to their dislike of the Achaean yoke. The newly founded state did not at once become powerful: it was weakened by internal dissension and lacked the stability of a united and well-organized community. The turning-point is marked by the legislation of Lycurgus (q.v.), who effected the unification of the state and instituted that training which was its distinguishing feature and the source of its greatness. Nowhere else in the Greek world was the pleasure of the individual so thoroughly subordinated to the interest of the state. The whole education of the Spartan was designed to make him an efficient soldier. Obedience, endurance, military success—these were the aims constantly kept in view, and beside these all other ends took a secondary place. Never, perhaps, in the world's history has a state so clearly set a definite ideal before itself or striven so consistently to reach it. But it was solely in this consistency and steadfastness that the greatness of Sparta lay. Her ideal was a narrow and unworthy one, and was pursued with a calculating selfishness and a total disregard for the rights of others, which robbed it of the moral worth it might otherwise have possessed. Nevertheless, it is not probable that without the training introduced by Lycurgus the Spartans would have been successful in securing their supremacy in Laconia, much less in the Peloponnese, for they formed a small immigrant band face to face with a large and powerful Achaean and autochthonous population.

The Expansion of Sparta.—We cannot trace in detail the process by which Sparta subjugated the whole of Laconia, but apparently the first step, taken in the reign of Archelaus and Charillus, was to secure the upper Eurotas valley, conquering the border territory of Aegys. Archelaus' son Teleclus is said to have taken Amyclae, Pharis and Geronthrae, thus mastering the central Laconian plain and the eastern plateau which lies between the Eurotas and Mt Parnon: his son, Alcamenes, by the subjugation of Helos brought the lower Eurotas plain under Spartan rule. About this time, probably, the Argives, whose territory included the whole east coast of the Peloponnese and the island of Cythera (Herod, i. 82), were driven back, and the whole of Laconia was thus incorporated in the Spartan state. It was not long before a further extension took place. Under Alcamenes and Theopompus a war broke out between the Spartans and the Messenians, their Messenian Wars. neighbours on the west, which, after a struggle lasting for twenty years, ended in the capture of the stronghold of Ithome and the subjection of the Messenians, who were forced to pay half the produce of the soil as tribute to their Spartan overlords. An attempt to throw off the yoke resulted in a second war, conducted by the Messenian hero Aristomenes (q.v.); but Spartan tenacity broke down the resistance of the insurgents, and Messenia was made Spartan territory, just as Laconia had been, its inhabitants being reduced to the status of helots, save those who, as perioeci, inhabited the towns on the sea-coast and a few settlements inland.

This extension of Sparta's territory was viewed with apprehension by her neighbours in the Peloponnese. Arcadia and Argos had vigorously aided the Messenians in their two struggles, and help was also sent by the Sicyonians, Pisatans and Triphylians: only the Corinthians appear to have supported the Spartans, doubtless on account of their jealousy of their powerful neighbours, the Argives. At the close of the second Messenian War, i.e. by the wyear 631 at latest, no power could hope to cope with that of Sparta save Arcadia and Argos. Early in the 6th century the Spartan kings Leon and Agasicles made a vigorous attack on Tegea, the most powerful of the Arcadian cities, but it was not until the reign of Anaxandridas and Ariston, about the middle of the century, that the attack was successful and Tegea was forced to acknowledge Spartan overlordship, though retaining its independence. The final struggle for Peloponnesian supremacy was with Argos, which had at an early period been the most powerful state of the peninsula, and even now, though its territory had been curtailed, was a serious rival of Sparta. But Argos was now no longer at the height of its Argive Wars. power: its league had begun to break up early in the century, and it could not in the impending struggle count on the assistance of its old allies, Arcadia and Messenia, since the latter had been crushed and robbed of its independence and the former had acknowledged Spartan supremacy. A victory won about 546 B.C., when the Lydian Empire fell before Cyrus of Persia, made the Spartans masters of the Cynuria, the borderland between Laconia and Argolis, for which there had been an age-long struggle. The final blow was struck by King Cleomenes I. (q.v.), who maimed for many years to come the Argive power and left Sparta without a rival in the Peloponnese. In fact, by the middle of the 6th century, and increasingly down to the period of the Persian Wars, Sparta had come to be acknowledged as the leading state of Hellas and the champion of Hellenism. Croesus of Lydia had formed an alliance with her. Scythian envoys sought her aid to stem the invasion of Darius; to her the Greeks of Asia Minor appealed to withstand the Persian advance and to aid the Ionian revolt; Plataea asked for her protection; Megara acknowledged her supremacy; and at the time of the Persian invasion under Xerxes no state questioned her right to lead the Greek forces on land and sea. Of such a position Sparta proved herself wholly unworthy. As an ally she was ineffective, nor could she ever rid herself of her narrowly Peloponnesian outlook sufficiently to throw herself heartily into the affairs of the greater Hellas that lay beyond the isthmus and across the sea. She was not a colonizing state, though the inhabitants of Tarentum, in southern Italy, and of Lyttus, in Crete, claimed her as their mother-city. Moreover, she had no share in the expansion of Greek commerce and Greek culture; and, though she bore the reputation of hating tyrants and putting them down where possible, there can be little doubt that this was done in the interests of oligarchy rather than of liberty. Her military greatness and that of the states under her hegemony formed her sole claim to lead the Greek race: that she should truly represent it was impossible.

Constitution.—Of the internal development of Sparta down to this time but little is recorded. This want of information was attributed by most of the Greeks to the stability of the Spartan constitution, which had lasted unchanged from the days of Lycurgus. But it is, in fact, due also to the absence of an historical literature at Sparta, to the small part played by written laws, which were, according to tradition, expressly prohibited by an ordinance of Lycurgus, and to the secrecy which always characterizes an oligarchical rule. At the head of the state stood two hereditary kings, of the Agiad and Eurypontid families, equal in authority, so that one could not act against the veto of his colleague, though the Agiad king received greater honour in virtue of the seniority of his family (Herod, vi. 51). Kingship. This dual kingship, a phenomenon unique in Greek history, was explained in Sparta by the tradition that on Aristodemus's death he had been succeeded by his twin sons, and that this joint rule had been perpetuated. Modern scholars have advanced various theories to account for the anomaly. Some suppose that it must be explained as an attempt to avoid absolutism, and is paralleled by the analogous instance of the consuls at Rome. Others think that it points to a compromise arrived at to end the struggle between two families or communities, or that the two royal houses represent respectively the Spartan conquerors and their Achaean predecessors: those who hold this last view appeal to the words attributed by Herodotus (v. 72) to Cleomenes I.: “I am no Dorian, but an Achaean.” The duties of the kings were mainly religious, judicial and military. They were the chief priests of the state, and had to perform certain sacrifices and to maintain communication with the Delphian sanctuary, which always exercised great authority in Spartan politics. Their judicial functions had at the time when Herodotus wrote (about 430 B.C.) been restricted to cases dealing with heiresses, adoptions and the public roads: civil cases were decided by the ephors,