Sparta- Classical Civilisation Notes. GCSE


Where is Sparta located?

Located in the mountainous areas of Laconia, south east of the Peloponnese. 

 Protected by mountains on each side of the valley, the Taygetus and Parnon Range. Could only be passed by narrow mountain passes providing a natural defence system. No need for city walls. 

Very ferial lands, river Eurotas which flowed through the valley. Lots of fish and fresh clean running water for the city. 

Olives and rich farmland and forests, lots of wildlife hunting became invaluable to the Sparta way of living. 

Sparta was a goldmine and very desirable to other Greek nations.

Enslavement of the Messenains 

Mass enslavement and brutalisation of Messenains (Greeks).  They were known to be wealthy and had established trading links. They had some amount of control over the other Greek nations and gained respect from the other countries.  For Sparta to leave such a powerful and inferential country without control would be unwise. 

  • Messenia had rich fertile land which could be used to grow crops. The Spartans only had wet marshy lands to raise animals which were no use for crops. 
  • The Messeniains had good trading links (cotton and iron) which could be exploited under Spartan control.
  • Financial aspects, the money could be used for amour and spears.
  • Banning all forms of currency and buying on a large scale requires the enslavement of the Helots to farm more land and mine goods in order for the Spartan people to be able to feed their people and gain wealth. 

The Messnaians were seen as a constant threat towards Sparta. They outnumber Sparta 10 to 1

They were enslaved for years but during the 6th century the Helots (Massenian people) rebelled and fought the Spartans for 20 years. Sparta won the battles and the Helots were brought under control. There was a second war in the 7th century which shaped Spartan society. 

However the Helots did have freedom of religion. 

Sparta realised that they would be always outnumbered by the Helots so they treated the Slaves with brutality and strict laws to remain in total control. They seems to be successful; as there was little evidence for any large scale helot revolt until the fall of Sparta. 

The second Messanian War, new military tactic, the Phalanx. Military glory was everything. 

The Lycurgus reforms.

Lycurgus believed in selective breeding. He believed that all citizens of Sparta had to remain pure especially the woman who would be the most important people to ensure the success of the future generations. 

Spartan education: 

Courage and conformity were moulded individuality and creativity were crushed. 

Early years.

When born babies they were inspected by wise Spartan elders for signs of weakness. If they were said to be weak they were left on Mt Taygetus to die. If they survived babies were not allowed comfort. They were not allowed to be wrapped in swaddling clothes and were left to cry on their own in dark rooms. 

It is said that babies were bathed in wine not…


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