Ancient History

How was the Greek city-state of Sparta organized?
Answered by Planet Green
  • Planet Green

    Planet Green

  1. The ancient Greek city-state of Sparta was led by two kings -- a design intended to limit the risk of despotism. A large public assembly supported these two kings; members had to be citizens at least the age of 30. The assembly elected a council of elders, made up of 28 men who had to be 60 years old or older. Once elected, an elder served on the council for life.

    Sparta had three distinct classes of people, and the members of only one of the three classes were considered citizens. These citizens were the Spartans, who were brought up to govern and who were constantly trained for combat. Sparta's land was divided into 30,000 equal shares, one of which was given to each free citizen. The second class was the Perioeci ("dwellers around"). These were the people who engaged in trade and sometimes fought in wars as expendable soldiers. Essentially, they were free non-citizens. The third class of Sparta's inhabitants was known the helot class. The helots were essentially slaves, made up of the conquered peoples of surrounding lands, who did all of the farming and menial work. This massive force of slave labor left Spartan citizens free to focus most of their time on military training and civic interaction.

    Spartan rulers helped ensure the continuation of their protected social order by engendering fierce loyalty among the young and maintaining a strong military. The inhabitants of Sparta were known for their discipline, courage and willingness to endure harsh conditions. This didn't happen accidentally. Spartan boys were taken to military schools when just 7 years old. They were taught strict obedience to the state, but only basic academic skills. The larger focus was on physical exercise and the ability to endure pain. Girls were educated at home, but they were also encouraged to develop strong bodies; they even participated in athletic competitions. The ideal of physical achievement was so important in Sparta that children who were considered weak or in some way "defective" were killed by the state.

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