Last Updated 27 May 2020

Ancient Historians: Sparta.

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Ancient historians reveal that Spartan society was something to be envied. (DISAGREE). Many ancient historians can agree that the Sparta, was an overall strong, well disciplined, sound governed, equal society, with hard working citizens and incredibly structured military forces. Some ancient historians, such as Thucydide and Plato, admired many aspects of the Spartans good order, and praised how well the Spartans system appeared to be working, whilst other historians, such as Aristotle, were extremely crucial of the Spartan system, and criticised their structure in many of their individual writings.

Many claim Spartans system of government included monarchical, and democratic components,although it is acknowledged as being primarily oligarchy. The government structure consisted of, two kings, and unlike most kings, these two did not have absolute power as they shared the power with each other and they also had to answer to a council of elders, or the Gerousia. The Gerouisa was made up of 28 male citizens, all over the age of sixty, who once elected served for live.

Below the Gerousia, was another assembly, the Apella. The Apella consisted of male citizens over the age of thirty. To complete the system of checks and balances, the Spartans created a judicial position called ephor. At any given time, there were five citizens serving in this role. Ephors were citizens over the age of thirty. They were elected to serve one-year terms. Ephors possessed considerable clout. An ephor could bring charges against anyone in Sparta—including one the city-state’s kings.

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Whilst some historians believed this government system to be efficient, and a sure way to keep matters, and laws fair through-out Sparta, Aristotle disagreed with one judicial position in particular, the Euphors. On them he said ‘The Lacedaemonian constitution is defective in another point; I mean the Ephoralty. This magistracy has authority in the highest matters, but the Ephors are chosen from the whole people, and so the office is apt to fall into the hands of very poor men, who, being badly off, are open to bribes. Aristotle believed that electing men, of no status whatsoever, and giving them such a high state of power was unwise, as a man of no status would be more prone to corruption, including the accepting of bribes. He then states ‘There have been many examples at Sparta of this evil in former times; and quite recently, in the matter of the Andrians, certain of the Ephors who were bribed did their best to ruin the state’ Thus proving his above point, that the Ephors were more likely to be bribed, for their own wealthfare.

Throughout majority of Greece, wives were acquired strictly for the production of legitimate heirs, providing food and were used for sexual pleasure. Husbands dominated and demeaned the women, and treated them as objects. Both wives and daughters of any citizen were excluded from all public and intellectual activities, they were kept inside and weren’t allowed to participate in leisure activities , receive an education, or eat as well as their brothers or husbands.

Women could not inherit or own any land, and it was considered unwise to educate them. This wasn’t the case with women in Sparta, although they still had arranged marriages, they did not have the right to vote, and were honored most for their production of strong sons, the women still enjoyed status and rights that were exceptional in those times and were considered a scandal to the rest of the essentially misogynous ancient world. Aristotle, from rival Athens, seems to complain about the Spartan society throughout his writings.

He is extremely critical of the Spartan system, especially of their emancipated women. “The license of the Lacedaemonian women defeats the intention of the Spartan constitution, and is adverse to the happiness of the state. ” - Aristotle, [On the Lacedaemonian Constitution] In this statement, Aristotle believes that by making woman emancipated, this disadvantages men and gives women an opportunity to take advantage of the men, by manipulating and controlling them. .

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