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How Far Does The Period 478 404 Bear Out The Contention That "Spartan Policy Is Always Governed Mainly By The Necessity Of Taking Precautions Against The Helots"?

1678 words - 7 pages

How Far Does The Period 478-404 Bear Out The Contention That"Spartan Policy Is Always Governed Mainly By The Necessity OfTaking Precautions Against The Helots"?During the period 478-404BC Sparta was considered to be one ofthe leading states in all of Hellas. Spartas policies have been questioned bymany ancient historians including Thucydides himself and it could beargued that some of Spartas policies did have alterior motives and reasonsbut was Spartan policy always governed mainly by the necessity of takingprecautions against the Helots?A Greek tribe called the Dorians who had previously lived on theedge of the civilised world crossed the Corinthian Gulf and invaded thegreat cities of the Peloponnese. The Dorians settled in Laconia andbecame known as the Spartans whereas the previous inhabitants of thatarea were enslaved and became known as the Helots. The invasions ofMessenia and Helos around 740BC also gained Sparta a large number ofHelots. A third social class also existed classical Sparta called thePeriocoi. This class had more rights than the Helots but still could not beconsidered to be Spartan citizens. The Periocoi had their own communitiesbut were still owned by the Spartan state and had to obey the Spartans.Sparta itself was a very militaristic society and was the only societyin Greece to have a professional army. According to Plutarch, the aim ofthe Spartan education system was "to produce prompt obedience toauthority, the ability to endure pain and hardship, courage and victory inbattle." So it seems the Spartan way of life was very hard and its main aimwas to produce good soldiers. Spartas tough military regime was known asthe Agoge; a boy lived in the barracks training to become a soldier fromthe age of six. During the first stage of 'education' he would be graduallyintroduced to hardships and physical skills, and this training wouldincrease in intensity the older the boy was. This education would not becompleted until he was thirty years old by which time he was a full citizenand would be expected to participate in military service.In the fifth century BC Sparta had a reputation of being xenophobicand isolationist. Sparta did not welcome outsiders as shown with theXenelasia (alien expulsion orders), which was very uncharacteristiccompared with other Greek states. However this xenophobia could beexplained by the constant threat of a Helot revolt. The Helots outnumberedSpartan citizens by ten to one and so there is little wonder why theSpartans were in such fear of a revolt. It is very difficult to picture a happyHelot, in general a slave belonged to his master but a Helot belonged tothe Spartan state as a whole and were assigned by the state to anindividual master. Also elsewhere in Greece a slave could gain hisfreedom but except in exceptional circumstances a Helot could neverexpect to gain his freedom. This "along with their numbers, thepermanence of the breed, and their national identity (most were ofMessenian origin) made them...

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