Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/632

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611
SPARTA

criminal jurisdiction had passed to the council of elders and the ephors. It was in the military sphere that the powers of the kings were most unrestricted. Aristotle describes the kingship at Sparta as “a kind of unlimited and perpetual generalship” (Pol. iii. 1285a), while Isocrates refers to the Spartans as “subject to an oligarchy at home, to a kingship on campaign” (iii. 24). Here also, however, the royal prerogatives were curtailed in course of time: from the period of the Persian wars the king lost the right of declaring war on whom he pleased, he was accompanied to the field by two ephors, and he was supplanted also by the ephors in the control of foreign policy. More and more, as time went on, the kings became mere figure-heads, except in their capacity as generals, and the real power was transferred to the ephors and to the gerousia (q.v.). The reason for this change lay partly in the fact that the ephors, chosen by popular election from the whole body of citizens, represented a democratic element in the constitution without violating those oligarchical methods which seemed necessary for its satisfactory administration; partly in the weakness of the kingship, the dual character of which inevitably gave rise to jealousy and discord between the two holders of the office, often resulting in a practical deadlock; partly in the loss of prestige suffered by the kingship, especially during the 5th century, owing to these quarrels, to the frequency with which kings ascended the throne as minors and a regency was necessary, and to the many cases in which a king was, rightly or wrongly, suspected of having accepted bribes from the enemies of the state and was condemned and banished. In the powers exercised by the assembly of the citizens or apella (q.v.) we cannot trace any development, owing to the scantiness of our sources. The Spartan was essentially a soldier, trained to obedience and endurance: he became a politician only if chosen as ephor for a single year or elected a life member of the council after his sixtieth year had brought freedom from military service.

Shortly after birth the child was brought before the elders of the tribe, who decided whether it was to be reared: if Training of Citizens. defective or weakly, it was exposed in the so-called Apothetae (αἱ Ἀποθέται, from ἀπόθετος, hidden). Thus was secured, as far as could be, the maintenance of a high standard of physical efficiency, and thus from the earliest days of the Spartan the absolute claim of the state to his life and service was indicated and enforced. Till their seventh year boys were educated at home: from that time their training was undertaken by the state and supervised by the παιδονόμος, an official appointed for that purpose. This training consisted for the most part in physical exercises, such as dancing, gymnastics, ball-games, &c., with music and literature occupying a subordinate position. From the twentieth year began the Spartan's liability to military service and his membership of one of the ἀνδρεῖα or φιδίτια (dining messes or clubs), composed of about fifteen members each, to one of which every citizen must belong. At thirty began the full citizen rights and duties. For the exercise of these three conditions were requisite: Spartiate birth, the training prescribed by law, and participation in and contribution to one of the dining-clubs. Those who fulfilled these conditions were the ὁμοῖοι (peers), citizens in the fullest sense of the word, while those who failed were called ὑπομείονες (lesser men), and retained only the civil rights of citizenship.

Spartiates were absolutely debarred by law from trade or manufacture, which consequently rested in the hands of the Social System. perioeci (q.v.), and were forbidden to possess either gold or silver, the currency consisting of bars of iron: but there can be no doubt that this prohibition was evaded in various ways. Wealth was, in theory at least, derived entirely from landed property, and consisted in the annual return made by the helots (q.v.) who cultivated the plots of ground allotted to the Spartiates. But this attempt to equalize property proved a failure: from early times there were marked differences of wealth within the state, and these became even more serious after the law of Epitadeus, passed at some time after the Peloponnesian War, removed the legal prohibition of the gift or bequest of land. Later we find the soil coming more and more into the possession of large landholders, and by the middle of the 3rd century B.C. nearly two-fifths of Laconia belonged to women. Hand in hand with this process went a serious diminution in the number of full citizens, who had numbered 8000 at the beginning of the 5th century, but had sunk by Aristotle's day to less than 1000, and had further decreased to 700 at the accession of Agis IV. in 244 B.C. The Spartans did what they could to remedy this by law: certain penalties were imposed upon those who remained unmarried or who married too late in life. But the decay was too deep-rooted to be eradicated by such means, and we shall see that at a late period in Sparta's history an attempt was made without success to deal with the evil by much more drastic measures.

The 5th Century B.C.—The beginning of the 5th century saw Sparta at the height of her power, though her prestige must have suffered in the fruitless attempts made to impose upon Athens an oligarchical regime after the fall of the Peisistratid tyranny in 510. But after the Persian Wars the Spartan supremacy could no longer remain unchallenged. Sparta had despatched an army in 490 to aid Athens in repelling the armament sent against it by Darius under the command of Datis and Artaphernes: but it arrived after the battle of Marathon had been fought and the issue of the conflict decided. In the second campaign, conducted ten years later by Xerxes in person, Sparta took a more active share and assumed the command of the combined Greek forces by sea and land. Yet, in spite of the heroic defence of Thermopylae by the Spartan king Leonidas (q.v.), the glory of the decisive victory at Salamis fell in Persian Wars. great measure to the Athenians, and their patriotism, self-sacrifice and energy contrasted strongly with the hesitation of the Spartans and the selfish policy which they advocated of defending the Peloponnese only. By the battle of Plataea (479 B.C.), won by a Spartan general, and decided chiefly by the steadfastness of Spartan troops, the state partially recovered its prestige, but only so far as land operations were concerned: the victory of Mycale, won in the same year, was achieved by the united Greek fleet, and the capture of Sestos, which followed, was due to the Athenians, the Peloponnesians having returned home before the siege was begun. Sparta felt that an effort was necessary to recover her position, and Pausanias, the victor of Plataea, was sent out as admiral of the Greek fleet. But though he won considerable successes, his overbearing and despotic behaviour and the suspicion that he was intriguing with the Persian king alienated the sympathies of those under his command: he was recalled by the ephors, and his successor, Dorcis, was a weak man who allowed the transference of the hegemony from Sparta to Athens to take place without striking a blow (see Delian League). By the withdrawal of Sparta and her Peloponnesian allies from the fleet the perils and the glories of the Persian War were left to Athens, who, though at the outset merely the leading state in a confederacy of free allies, soon began to make herself the mistress of an empire. Sparta took no steps at first to prevent this. Her interests and those of Athens did not directly clash, for Athens included in her empire only the islands of the Aegean and the towns on its north and east coasts, which lay outside the Spartan political horizon: with the Peloponnese Athens did not meddle. Moreover, Sparta's attention was at this time fully occupied by troubles nearer home—the plots of Pausanias not only with the Persian king but with the Laconian helots; the revolt of Tegea (c. 473-71), rendered all the more formidable by the participation of Argos; the earthquake which in 464 devastated Sparta; and the rising of the Messenian helots, which immediately followed. But there was a growing estrangement from Athens, which ended at length in an open breach. The insulting dismissal of a large body of Athenian troops which War with Athens. had come, under Cimon, to aid the Spartans in the siege of the Messenian stronghold of Ithome, the consummation of the Attic democracy under Ephialtes and Pericles, the conclusion of an alliance between Athens