Table of Contents
- Sparta was a strong warrior society.
- Sparta’s culture was about loyalty to the state and military service.
- Despite being good at war, in 371 B.C., they were defeated by Thebes and then declined.
Sparta was a city in ancient Greece. It was called the “city-state of Sparta.” The citizens who lived in that region were called Spartans. Keep reading to learn more Sparta facts.
Sparta was located near Messenia, which was another city. The Spartans grew to be as big as Athens and Thebes because they conquered Messenia.
Sparta Facts: Spartan Society
Spartan society was split up into different social classes. They were split between people who were conquered and people who weren’t.
The conquered population did not have any rights, while the other population had more rights. Even lower on the social scale were a group of people called helots.
The people of Sparta were divided into three distinct groups:
- The Spartans were full citizens of the state.
- The Helots were serfs or slaves.
- The Perioeci were neither slaves nor citizens. They worked as artisans and merchants and produced weapons.
Men ruled Sparta. Some families were powerful, and all of them were male.
These were the aristocrats who owned land, and after Lycurgus reforms, citizens could not farm. The helots farmed. Citizens in Sparta had to do sports and military training.
The helots were a type of slave. They were different from the perioikoi, who remained free.
The helots had obligations to serve in the army and could not participate in government. But they did have some local autonomy and lived like most people who weren’t Spartans.
They worked as homemakers, farmers, craftsmen, and merchants. This made them part of Spartan’s economic system.
In Sparta, two kings ruled the city. It was a way to ensure that the other could continue to lead if one king went on a military campaign.
The two kings had the same power. They were both cooperative and competitive with one another.
Sparta never lacked a leader. The Greeks called this anarchy, where there is no government or leadership.
The king’s duties were religious, judicial, and military. They were the most important priests of the state. They had contact with the Oracle of Delphi. The Oracle of Delphi had a lot of power in Spartan politics. All Greeks had to consult the oracle at least once in their lives to learn about themselves.
Elders were advisors to the rulers and also judges. Elders met with people in public meetings.
A gerousia, also called the Council of Gerontes (or elders), was made up of twenty-eight men over sixty years old. They served until they died.
In ancient Sparta, the winners of the council of elders were chosen by acclamation. When people shouted loud enough, they were elected.
The perioikoi, who did business with the outside world, used silver and gold coins. But Spartans themselves could only use iron money. These bars were made of iron, and they were used for trading before coins.
The Spartans were called “Men of Equal Status” because they strived for every citizen to be equal. Rich or poor, all Spartans had the same training. They also wore the same uniform and fought side by side with weapons in the Spartan army.
Sparta kept its independence until the Roman invasion of Greece.
Women in Sparta enjoyed many privileges that were not available in other parts of the world. They had a high status, and people listened to them.
Unlike girls in Athens, Spartan girls ate the same food as their brothers. They weren’t confined to their father’s house. They were told to exercise.
The Spartans were the only Greek women who had a state-controlled upbringing and could go to school for free. Spartan women had a healthy lifestyle of exercise, good nutrition, and wine.
In ancient Sparta, women would compete in sports. And if a girl got married, she had to be at least 18 years old. Spartans did this for a reason: to have healthy kids.
Women in ancient Sparta had to have children. That was the only social obligation they had.
Spartan women lived longer because they were better fed and fit. They had a life expectancy that was much higher than other Greek cities at 34.6 years, which is ten years lower for men.
Athenian women wore heavy clothes that covered them up. They were not able to go inside the city without a male. Spartan women wore clothes that allowed them to move freely and go around the city by themselves.
Spartan girls were divided into groups. There were children, young girls who had grown up, and those who were married.
Hairstyles had a meaning. They told other people what was going on in your life. A woman as a maiden wore her hair long and loose. As a bride, she cut her hair. If the woman was married, she covered up her hair.
Military activity was important to Sparta. Sparta was different from other ancient Greek cities because it only cared about training and being the best at war.
In Sparta, fathers did not decide how to raise their children. All children got the same education and were supervised by the state.
In Sparta, everyone was put into age groups, which were:
- youths (ephebes)
- young men
When boys were 7 years old, they left their homes and went to a military academy. They trained there.
The training was made to teach discipline. It was also made to teach how important the Spartan State was.
This school was for boys. They had to practice and get ready for difficulties. When they became troops, they would need to defend themselves.
Boys went barefoot at school. They cut their hair short when they were 12. They only got one new cloak each year to wear in all types of weather.
The boys slept in groups on mats they made themselves. They were rough mats.
The Spartans encouraged their young boys to be cunning and self-reliant. So they gave them food for one day, but they let them steal more food so they could have enough to eat. If the boy got caught stealing, his whipping would begin.
Boys had physical and weapons training. They also had to study reading and writing, as well as music and dancing. They had to answer questions briefly with wit. If they couldn’t respond well, they got punishment.
The youth of Sparta grew their hair long, unlike other men in Greece. They would shave with a long beard and no mustache.
A Spartan citizen at age 20 started to be a member of one army group, which was made up of about 15 people and was compulsory. A person in this group learned how to work together and rely on each other.
The man who lived in Sparta ate his food with fifteen other men from his army group. This helped him be loyal to them and work well with them. Everyone in the army group has to give food or drinks.
Sparta and War
People between 20-30 years old could marry, but they had to live with their army group until they were 30. Unlike other people in ancient Greece, the Spartans didn’t marry foreigners or recruit new citizens from other countries.
The Spartan man was liable for military service until they were 60. They needed to stay fit as a Spartan soldier. That is why they were never trained for any other profession or way of life.
Soldiers had to be strong and brave. They had to fight with heavy weapons on the ground. The Spartan army was famous for its skill in battle on the ground.
Sparta fought against both foreign and neighboring countries.
The Greco-Persian Wars
A small group of people from Sparta made a legendary stand against a large army from Persia. This happened during the Greco-Persian Wars.
The Greek forces had many casualties before they were trapped. Sparta formed an alliance of Greeks to fight against the Persians at the Battle of Plataea. The Greeks had better weapons and armor. That helped them win.
They won the Greco-Persian War. Despite the other countries fighting this war, Sparta was the one who won.
Spartan Art and Culture
Sparta was known for its poetry and pottery. Rests of Spartan pottery were found in places as far away as Libya in Africa.
Sparta had a place that made ivory. In the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, Spartan ivory carvings show beautiful birds, people, and trees.
Spartan poetry hints at a society that is full of fighting or war. The poet Tyrtaeus wrote the following words:
Here is courage, mankind’s finest possession, here is the noblest prize that a young man can endeavor to win, and it is a good thing his city and all the people share with him when a man plants his feet and stands in the foremost spears relentlessly.
Sparta in Mythology
In Greek mythology, Lacedaemon was the son of Zeus. He named the region after himself, and his wife named the city.
Sparta was also a part of the Greek force that went to Troy. A prince from Troy kidnapped a beautiful woman called Helen. The Spartan king did not want this. He decided to fight the people of Troy, and his wife got taken again.
Helen was the most beautiful woman in Greece. Spartan women were famous for having strong personalities and notorious beauty.
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