Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/634

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613
SPARTA

reforms of Cleomenes seem to have had no permanent effect. The reign of Cleomenes is marked also by a determined effort to cope with the rising power of the Achaean League (q.v.) and to recover for Sparta her long-lost supremacy in the Peloponnese, and even throughout Greece. The battle of Sellasia (222 B.C.), in which Cleomenes was defeated by the Achaeans and Antigonus Doson of Macedonia, and the death of the king, which occurred shortly afterwards in Egypt, put an end to these hopes. The same reign saw also an important constitutional change, the substitution of a board of patronomi for the ephors, whose power had become almost despotic, and the curtailment of the functions exercised by the gerousia; these measures were, however, cancelled by Antigonus. It was not long afterwards that the dual kingship ceased and Sparta fell under the sway of a series of cruel and rapacious tyrants—Lycurgus, Machanidas, who was killed by Philopoemen, and Nabis, who, if we may trust the accounts given by Polybius and Livy, was little better than a bandit chieftain, holding Sparta by means of extreme cruelty and oppression, and using mercenary troops to a large extent in his wars.

The Intervention of Rome.—We must admit, however, that a vigorous struggle was maintained with the Achaean League and with Macedon until the Romans, after the conclusion of their war with Philip V., sent an army into Laconia under T. Quinctius Flamininus. Nabis was forced to capitulate, evacuating all his possessions outside Laconia, surrendering the Laconian seaports and his navy, and paying an indemnity of 500 talents (Livy xxxiv. 33-43). On the departure of the Romans he succeeded in recovering Gythium, in spite of an attempt to relieve it made by the Achaeans under Philopoemen, but in an encounter he suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of that general, who for thirty days ravaged Laconia unopposed. Nabis was assassinated in 192, and Sparta was forced by Philopoemen to enrol itself as a member of the Achaean League Achaean League. (q.v.) under a phil-Achaean aristocracy. But this gave rise to chronic disorders and disputes, which led to armed intervention on the part of the Achaeans, who compelled the Spartans to submit to the overthrow of their city walls, the dismissal of their mercenary troops, the recall of all exiles, the abandonment of the old Lycurgan constitution and the adoption of the Achaean laws and institutions (188 B.C.). Again and again the relations between the Spartans and the Achaean League formed the occasion of discussions in the Roman senate or of the despatch of Roman embassies to Greece, but no decisive intervention took place until a fresh dispute about the position of Sparta in the league led to a decision of the Romans that Sparta, Corinth, Argos, Arcadian Orchomenus and Heraclea on Oeta should be severed from it. This resulted in an open breach between the league and Rome, and eventually, in 146 B.C., after the sack of Corinth, in the dissolution of the league and the annexation of Greece to the Roman province of Macedonia. For Sparta the long era of war and intestine struggle had ceased and one of peace and a revived prosperity took its place, as is witnessed by the numerous extant inscriptions belonging to this period. As an allied city it was exempt from direct taxation, though compelled on occasions to make “voluntary” presents to Roman generals. Political ambition was restricted to the tenure of the municipal magistracies, culminating in the offices of nomophylax, ephor and patronomus. Augustus showed marked favour to the city, Hadrian twice visited it during his journeys in the East and accepted the title of eponymous patronomus. The old warlike spirit found an outlet chiefly in the vigorous but peaceful contests held in the gymnasium, the ball-place, and the arena before the temple of Artemis Orthia: sometimes too it found a vent in actual campaigning, as when Spartans were enrolled for service against the Parthians by the emperors Lucius Verus, Septimius Severus and Caracalla. Laconia was subsequently overrun, like so much of the Roman Empire, by barbarian hordes.

Medieval Sparta.—In A.D. 396 Alaric destroyed the city and at a later period Laconia was invaded and settled by Slavonic tribes, especially the Melings and Ezerits, who in turn had to give way before the advance of the Byzantine power, though preserving a partial independence in the mountainous regions. The Franks on their arrival in the Morea found a fortified city named Lacedaemonia occupying part of the site of ancient Sparta, and this continued to exist, though greatly depopulated, even after Guillaume de Villehardouin had in 1248-1249 founded the fortress and city of Misithra, or Mistra, on a spur of Taygetus some 3 m. north-west of Sparta. This passed shortly afterwards into the hands of the Byzantines, who retained it until the Turks under Mahommed II. captured it in 1460. In 1687 it came into the possession of the Venetians, from whom it was wrested in 1715 by the Turks. Thus for nearly six centuries it was Mistra and not Sparta which formed the centre and focus of Laconian history.

The Modern City.—In 1834, after the War of Independence had resulted in the liberation of Greece, the modern town of Sparta was built on part of the ancient site from the designs of Baron Jochmus, and Mistra decayed until now it is in ruins and almost deserted. Sparta is the capital of the prefecture (νομός) of Lacedaemon and has a population, according to the census taken in 1907, of 4456: but with the exception of several silk factories there is but little industry, and the development of the city is hampered by the unhealthiness of its situation, its distance from the sea and the absence of railway communication with the rest of Greece. As a result of popular clamour, however, a survey for a railway was begun in 1907, an event of great importance for the prosperity of Sparta and of the whole Eurotas Plain.

II.—Archaeology

There is a well-known passage in Thucydides which runs thus: “Suppose the city of Sparta to be deserted, and nothing left but the temples and the ground-plan, distant ages would be very unwilling to believe that the power of the Lacedaemonians was at all equal to their fame. . . . Their city is not built continuously, and has no splendid temples or other edifices; it rather resembles a group of villages, like the ancient towns of Hellas, and would therefore make a poor show” (i. 10, trans. Jowett). And the first feeling of most travellers who visit modern Sparta is one of disappointment with the ancient remains: it is rather the loveliness and grandeur of the situation and the fascination of Mistra, with its grass-grown streets, its decaying houses, its ruined fortress and its beautiful Byzantine churches, that remain as a lasting and cherished memory. Until 1905 the chief ancient buildings at Sparta were the theatre, of which, however, little shows above ground except portions of the retaining walls; the so-called Tomb of Leonidas, a quadrangular building, perhaps a temple, constructed of immense blocks of stone and containing two chambers; the foundation of an ancient bridge over the Eurotas; the ruins of a circular structure; some remains of late Roman fortifications; several brick buildings and mosaic pavements. To these must be added the inscriptions, sculptures and other objects collected in the local museum, founded by Stamatakis in 1872 and enlarged in 1907, or built into the walls of houses or churches. Though excavations were carried on near Sparta, on the site of the Amyclaeum in 1890 by Tsountas, and in 1904 by Furtwängler, and at the shrine of Menelaus in Therapne by Ross in 1833 and 1841, and by Kastriotis in 1889 and 1900, yet no organized work was tried in Sparta itself save the partial excavation of the “round building” undertaken in 1892 and 1893 by the American School at Athens; the structure has been since found to be a semicircular retaining-wall of good Hellenic work, though partly restored in Roman times.

In 1904 the British School at Athens began a thorough exploration of Laconia, and in the following year excavations were made at Thalamae, Geronthrae, and Angelona near Monemvasia, while several medieval fortresses were surveyed. In 1906 excavations began in Sparta itself with results of great value, which have been published in the British School Annual, vol. xii. sqq.