Spartan Economy

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  • Created by: Alice
  • Created on: 01-08-13 10:19

basics of spartan economy

The spartan economy was designed to enable citizens to devote all their time and energy to the defence and welfare of the polis

the state supplied the spartans with their daily needs as measured by a standard of austerity

The structure of the economy was intrinsically linked to the lycurgan reforms and then creation of the three social groups

The rich resources of Laconia also helped to maintain economic opportunity in terms of manufacture and limited trade. Following the conquest of Messenia, Sparta was ultimately one of the richest states in Greece

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histography of the spartan economy

Ducat: All work and financial gain was forbidden to the Spartans

All citizens were singuarly concerned with the advancement of the military

Buckley: Claims the term homoioi is misleading and not all spartans were equal in wealth (Land distribution and inheritance prevented this)

The distribution of Kleroi reflected the reality that agriculture was the key function of the economy

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Helots as a basis of the economy

- The spartiates also recieved Helots with the Kleros - Tyraeus describes the taxation between the s and the Spartans

"likw donkeys weighed down by heavy burdens, they bought to their masters half of the fruits of the earth, a grevious necessity"

Ducat: Helots were seen to be fulfilling a man sided role in production and service

Helots are regarded as the basis of the Spartan economy - Labour was crucial in freeing up the spartan men and women from the need to produce food. They were also occassionally used as military servants because of oliganthropia

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Perioikoi in the economic cycle

The dwellers worked as farmers, manufacturers, miners, shippers and traded items for the spartans who were forbidden to because of Lycurgan reforms

they made spartan weapons and were also occassionally called in to fight for spartans.

They protected the Spartans and acted as their first "barrier" as they Spartans had a fear a foriegners

Archeological: Laconian pottery, figurines and masks have been found beyond laconia. Also evidence that this pottery reached a high point in the period 620-550BC

Cyrene and Taras were Spartas main trading partners

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Decline of the spartan economy

Difficult to explain the decline however, Hodgekinson suggests that by the 5th century BC that the numbers of homoioi had begun to decline and became so rapid that by the beginning of the 4th century the numbers were dangerously low

known as "demographic anaemia"

1. Losses of warfare

2. Earthquake of 468: left 5 houses standing in Sparta

3. Second Messenian revolt: mid 5th century by helots

4. Relations with the Perioikoi: essential relations seem to deterioate possibly because of the increasing demands of the spartan government to supply manpower for the army

5.chariot races: expenses involved in chariot racing got too high

6. Due to the limited numbers of children and the ffects of inheritance and carefully arranged marriages the remaining homoioi seem to have concentrated a large portion of wealth into their hands. So the wealth was around fewer and fewer people - leading to an inability to change

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Before Lycurgan reforms

Before the lycurgan reforms spartans used:

  • Coinage: Hodkinson says that ancient sources refer to coin bribery indicating that spartans must had access to some coinage
  • and figueira suggests that there was two spartan economy "ideal one" and the "black" economy. However, after the perioikoi did use coins for trade and Sparta used iron bars 


  • the fact that after the reforms Spartiates were banned from craft work and trade suggests that they had been doing these before
  • We don't know whether they stopped doing it or some specialised people kept their jobs, Cartledge suggest that the Lycurgans revolution took some time to work its way through society


  • they used to smelt and through this smelting and the creation of iron weapons this is how they came to dominant the original inhabitants
  • there is evidence of pottery found in kynosoura and mesoan quarters of town - Lakonian pottery was painted with reddish clay and Christou found a kiln in 1964 in 600bc
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Three different types of leisure activities

- Hunting 

- Banquets

- women/horse riding

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- According to Xenophone if a spartan had not hunting dogs he could borrow from his neighbour

-hunting in other greek society was only for the wealthy

- hunting pictured on Spartan vases in late 6th century, provides more evidence on what a popular past time it was

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- Relgious duties involved banqueting - scenes on laconian vases

- Alcman provides 7th century stories of wine and banqueting

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women/horse riding

- Athletics

- Chariot racing (also for not women)

- horse riding was a popular past time as well

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