The Spartans

  By Jeffg, 2001; Revised

History of Sparta

The Spartan Empire was a short lived one, yet the longest of the the pre-ejaculator Greek major hedgemonies of the time. Contrary to what many people may think, Sparta was not such a sad millitary dictatorship as historians have taught us. The city of Sparta itself had a theatre, and the Spartan culture was based around athletics and sporting events as well as millitary training and superiority. 

Most historians are very unsure if early Mycenean Sparta even existed. It was probably a vassal of Mycenae called "Lakedaemon", or perhaps part of the Mycenean Empire. Homer mentions in both "Iliad" and "Oddysey" that the brother of the King of Mycenae, Agamemnon, ruled Sparta. his name was Menelaos. However we do know that the Dorians from northern Greece and Illyria began a major invasion circa 1100 BC. The Mycenean kingdoms of legend and poem were destroyed and orverrun, and much of civilization was erased, including what was known of the Mycenean kingdom of Lakedaemon. The Dorians also enslaved the conquered peoples the lands. 
Soon after the Dorians began major founding settlements in Lakonia (Main Spartan province) and the Pelleponesse, they began colonizing the Aegean islands of Melos and Gortyn from Lakonia. 

The city of Sparta was truly founded as a polis (Greek city state) around the year 850 BC (Give or take 50 years). The four towns that made up the area united into one, and it was called Sparta, or Lakedaemon. The small state of Sparta grew until the first Messenian War in 736 BC. In this war, Sparta conquered the state of Messenia. The people of Messenia recieved the same treatment as the conquered people of Lakonia; enslavement of a kind. They were made into helots, which was a slave with privelages. One must remember that in Ancient Greece slaves did not have it so terrible. They lived the lives of poor Greek citizens, so they made up much of the local population. Many slaves were well liked and honored, yet the Messenians hated their Spartan masters, and they would not live under Spartan rule without more blood to spill. 

The competing city state of Argos itself was hostile to Sparta. It eventually led to war with Sparta, and the Argive arrmy was one to be reckoned with. The Spartans ravaged the land of Argolis (Province of Argos) with the help of the town of Asine. In revenge, the Argives bitterly sacked and totalls destroyed Asine and it's people. This only made the flames of hate between Sparta and Argos worse. 
The during this time many competing Greek states were founding colonies in Italiy and Sicily, mainly Corinth though. Sparta did not refrain from founding their own. In the year 706 BC, the Spartans founded Tarentum, or, Taras. Sparta itself became well known for it's advances in musical arts, but a majro change was approaching. 
The helots and subdued Messenians were not happy under Spartan rule. Around 650 BC, the Messenians, lead by Aristomenes, revolted against Spartan rule. The oracle predicted that Messenia would eventually be defeated, and she was; The Spartans had a terrible time putting down the rebellion, yet it indeed took them over 20 years of war to finally re-subdue Messenia and it's people. 
The Spartans learned from this, and indded under their king Lykurgos decided they had to change their lifestyles and the lifestyle of the entire state to be able to control the rebellious helots and Messenians. Sparta experienced a complete millitary reform. From being an average Greek polis, Sparta eventually became a powerful millitary force to be reckoned with. Young boys were bred to be tough as well as Spartan women. In the winter, Spartan boys were only allowed to wear one layer of clothing. Spartan women wrestled and took part in sports. The culture of Sparta changed from normal Archaic Greek to millitary and athletic. Elders judged wether Spartan babies were strong or weak enough to live. If they were judged too weak, they were hurled into a gorge or left to die in a hillside. Life was made tough for the Spartan citizens (Spartiates) so they could forever control the Messenians. Even alcohol was banned to the Spartans, but the helots were allowed to drink. 

Argos and Sparta again went to war. Many small skirmnishes and such took place, but the Spartans majorly defeated the Argives at the Battle of Hysai. To the Argives this was a major defeat, and though Sparta never followed through and marched upon Argos itself, it is safe to say Sparta won the war. The Spartans made many great advances after this, capturing Phigaleia and Hira, as well as conquering Pylos and Mothone. 
Yet still the Spartans met more war in Tegea around 560 BC (Which ended up with Sparta setting up pro Spartan governments in Tegea), and worse, another war with Argos ensured. The Spartans and the Argives decided that instead of another major war taking place the even should be decided the a battle of 300 champion hoplites from each side. This would be known as "The Battle of Champions", and honor should go to both the Argives as well as the Spartans, who by now were bitterest of enemies. The fighting was so very fierce that neither force could outdo the other until it ended with two exhausted Argives and one wounded Spartan. The Argives returned to Argos while the Spartan killed himself in shame. Both sides claimed absolute victory, however. The Spartans began a "style" during this period that would last for many years. They would let their hair grow long and have no moustaches, and only after they would be victorious would they cut their hair again. Around the year 505 BC, Sparta and Argos went to war again. No reason is known for this war, but one can guess why two nations that completely loathed each other would go to war. 

 Surviving Greeks after the battle of Champions

Kleomenes of Sparta advanced his army into Argolis, but he had failed to take Argos itself. The Argive army was very careless, and in that same year he surprised and defeated the Argive army near Sepia. The fleeing Argives attempted to take sacred refuge in a holy grove of the myhtical Hero Argos. Kleomenes did the unthinkable and set fire to the grove. The Argives were either killed by the fire or driven out and kill, and in the end the Argive casualties numbered 6,000, over two thirds of the entire Argive army. This was considered the last major battle Argos fought by itself against Sparta, and it was the biggest loss Argos would ever encounter at the hands of Sparta. The Spartans then after had all the male citizens of Argos executed to ensure that Argos would never again cause trouble for Sparta (This was very merciful, as the average thing to do in this period in Greece was a complete slaughter of a city's citizens)

World wide events began to effect Greece, however. The huge Persian Empire under Darius I sent envoys to Sparta and Athens (Now being the two major city states of Greece) demanding that they give the Persian Empire "earth and water". The Spartans threw the envoy down a well, telling him he would find much earth and water down there. The Persian Empire, enraged by Greek involvement in a rebellion against them in Asia Minor (Modern Turkey), had decided to invade Athens and Attika (the Athenian homeland) in revenge. The Athenians asked for Spartan aid, but the Spartans were veryreligious, and in a week long obligatory religious ceremony dedicated to the huntress goddess Artemis

 Map of Thermopolae pass

The Spartan reinforcements arrived too late, but learned that Athens had

won a marvelous victory and defeated the larger Persian army at Marathon beach in 490 BC.  The Persians this time amassed a huge army to invade Greece. Men from all over the Persian Empire which stretched from India to Egypt amassed right through Darius I's death into his son Xerxes's ascent to the throne. Xerxes invaded Greece with a force of what Herodotus said was 2,000,000 (two million). It is estimated by modern historians to be around 300,000, still, considerably larger than any Greek army or coalition of Greek armies. The Per

sians marched mostly unmatcehd through northern Greece, conquering Thrace, Macedon, and then Thessaly. Athens and Sparta founded the "Hellenic League", which was a united coalition of Greek states to resist the Persian invasion (Which was generous of Sparta, as Persia's target was indeed Athens). The Spartans sent their best soldiers (The Elite 300) to Thermopylae Pass, where they intended to hold off the Persian invasion.

 Tomb of Leonides

Athens itself won a major naval victory at Salamis, cutting off Persian reinforcements. The Persian Emperor Xerxes was afraid that the Greeks would cut off his way home, so he left his General Mardonius and 90,000 Persian warriors to finish the conquest of Greece. The Athenians convinced the Spartans to face the remaining Persian army (As the Athenian land army was somewhat lacking). The Spartans, under the regent-King Pausanias, launched a major expidition northwards to face the Persian army. The two forces met near the town of Plataea (A Theban town, as the Theban Greeks had joined Persia rather than the Hellenic League). The battle lasted for days, but the Greeks led by the Spartans eventually defeated the Persians adn saved Athens and Greece from the Persian army. 
 Battle of Platea

It was a time of celebration in Sparta and Lakonia after the defeat of the Persians, which would be short lived. First an earthquake hit Sparta, and then the helots attempted anotehr rebellion. The Athenians formed their own league to ensure the Persians would never again invade, as the Spartans did as well. The Athenian ruled "Delian League" was a major naval power, while the Spartans ruled "Pelleponesean League" was a major land army power. Athens itself began to treat it's allies badly, namely Corinth by blackmailing them and usurping power from it's leaders. In 461 BC Corinth appealed and begged to Sparta to "Save Greece from Athens" and "liberate them from the Athenian tyrrany". Sparta reluctantly agreed to declare war on Athens and the Delian League, and the Pelleponesean Wars began. 

One must remember that the Pelleponesean war did not start overnight. It took much millitary tensions and competition in trade and governments before Corinth's appeal triggered the war itself. Athens and sparta clashed in many battles during this period, but most things did not change. Athens dominated the seas, while Sparta's army ravaged Attika and was always outside the walls of Athens. Athens had the brilliant leader Pericles, who made many wise decisions for Athens. 

The Delian League controlled more ships and soldiers than the Pelleponesean League, yet Sparta and the Pelleponesean League had much more well trained soldiers and the support of much of the Greek states in Sicily including Syracuse, a major state. In the second year of the Pelleponesean Wars, Sparta invaded Attika itself. Pericles had the Athenians hide behind Athens's great walls, safe from the well trained Spartan warriors. The Spartans had much trouble with his, as they could not use a navy to defeat the great Athenian navy and they could not enter Athens itself. However, Athens could not attack the Pelleponesse itself either. Sparta prepared to meet a strong Athenian army, as the Athenians began to heavily train soldiers within Athens itself. However, Sparta found mroe fortune when a plague hit Athens. Since so many of the people were inside the city, it caused heavy casualties. The plague killed Pericles himself. 

 Athenian Hoplite

During the next few years Sparta defeated Athens in almost every single land battle except at The Battle of Pylos in Messenia and The Battle of Cythera in Laconia, however the Spartans took the Athenian city of Amphilopolis and severly defeated the Athenian forces in the process. In the year 421 BC a peace treaty was signed between the leagues known as the "Peace of Nicias", which was supossed to last 50 Years. It lasted seven. 

The Athenians broke the peace by making an attempt to cause a major and fatal blow to

Sparta by destroying it's enconomic providers in Sicily, mainly being Syracuse. The Athenians sent a major force of ships and warriors to Syracuse and seemed to have the advantage for a time. By Spring, the Athenians were still crushing the Syracusean armies. However, the Athenian commander Nicias did not hurry in destroying the sparse few Syracusan defenders left. The Spartans sent the help of their General Gyllipus with both Corinthian and Spartan forces to defend Syracuse. This weakened the dominant position the Athenians had been in the previous winter. Demosthenes of Athens came to reinforce the Athenian armies there against the Spartans and Syracuseans. The Athenians were soon after defeated, and they navy trapped and captured. It was the largest defeat the Delian Leagues would ever face. 

The Spartans decided to counter attack at the breaking of this peace. The Persians, who still held a grudge against Athens for freeing the Greek states in Asia Minor, began to fund the Spartans. With the funds from Persia, Sparta built a navy and invaded Attika again. At Aegospotami the Spartans surprised and defeated the Athenian navy, cutting of supplies to Athens from the Black Sea area. 

The Athenians once again fled into the walls of their city, but with no supplies they unconditionally surrendered to Sparta in the year 404 BC. This marked the beginning of Sparta's major power and the end of the "Athenian Empire" (Delian League)
 Spartan Hoplite

Sparta was at it's very height of power. The state of Sparta itself had about 25,000 citizens and 500,000 slaves! Athens was subdued, and Persia was in civil war. The Spartans led a mercinary force of the famous 10,000 into Asia. Sparta itself then began to campaign against Persia in Asia Minor under Ageislaius. However, Sparta's former allies from the Pelleponesean War betrayed her, namely Thebes and the Persians. The Persian Emperor wanted to cause more trouble in Greece, so he sent bribes to the other states in Greece to rise up against the Spartan hedgemony. Thebes founded an alliance against Sparta and the growing Theban alliance captured the Spartan town of Heraclea and slaughtered the Spartans living there. The Spartans quickly stopped campaigning in Asia Minor against Persia to face this new growing threat in Greece. In 394 BC a united force of Athenians, Thebans, Argives faced a much smaller Spartan army at Nemea. The Spartans crushed the united force of Greeks (Boeotian Alliance), but the Boeotian Allies were not near finished. 

In the year 371 BC another united Greek army met the Spartan army on the plains of Leuktra. This was provoked because the Spartans sacked the city of Thebes without provocation, and the Athenians and Thebans decided to seek revenge. The Theban commander, Epaminondas was an excellent General and had invented a new style of phalanx that the hoplites could fight in. It assured that more men could fight at once against the Spartans, who used the older system. The two forces clashed and the battle began, with the Spartans eeming to have the advantage in numbers as well as training and equipment. But the Spartan soldiers were too proud, and when the Spartan general called for an organized temporary retreat (Which if sucessful would have won the battle in most likeliness) the Spartan soldeirs refused to retreat, thinking it as being dishonorable. The Thebans took advantage of this, as some Spartans retreated and some didn't. The forces were routed and broken, and the Thebans won. 

The "Spartan Empire", as it was called, came to an end here. Sparta still existed under it's own governance, but it never again would regain it's former power. The Thebans dismantled the Pelleponesean League and created it's own Boeotian League which didn't include Sparta. The Thebans took territories away from Sparta, as Sparta's population had been severly depleted from the wars in Asia Minor against Persia. Thebes also did the unthinkable; Freed all of the Messenians and helots from Sparta and gave them Messenia to form their own state. Soon after Thebes founded the city of Megalopolis just north of Lakonia, which took over all of Sparta's trade and commerce. Sparta in vain attempted to regain Messenia, but had little success. 

Sparta remained a smaller state as Thebes fell and Athens rose again for a small time, but then the combined forces of all the other Greek states were defeated by Phillip of Macedon at the Battle of Charonea. The Spartans then threatened Phillip, but were defeated at the Battle of Megalopolis. The Spartans lost no land during this time, but they never again faced a major battle. 

When the son of Phillip, Alexander, had subdued all of Greece but Sparta and Lakonia (As Sparta was the only state not to fall under Macedonian control) Alexander asked Sparta to help him invade Persia. The Spartans replied, "We do not follow men, but lead them." 

Sparta remained a smaller state and it's history is mostly uneventful during the Hellenistic Period of history after Alexander. However, war came again from Sparta's ancient enemy; Argos.

The Spartan army, though small by this time, defeated the Argive army several times, and for the first time in history, though at it's very weakest point, Spartans sacked the city of Argos twice both in 225 BC and 196 BC. 

The Romans invaded Greece eventually, and Sparta was one of the last cities to be taken. It marked the end of Spartan rule, and the city was destroyed when Goths invaded Greece much later near the fall of the Roman Empire. Sparta had risen and fallen, being the masters of Greece at one time themselves. The Spartan hedgemony at it's height lasted 33 years before it's defeat at Leuktra, and it was the proudest state in Greece. 

 The Pellopeneian League shown in purple

Spartan Kings

Eurysthenes Procles 
Agis Eurypon 


Sparta always had two Kings, one to keep the other in order. Realistically it meant one would control outside battles while the other preformed religious duties in Sparta. 

Agiad Kings - Eurypontid Kings

Agis I (930-900?) - Eurypon (895-865?) 
Echestratus (900-870?) - Prytanis (865-835?) 
Leobotas (870-840?) - Polydectes (835-805?) 
Doryssus (840-815?) - Eunomus (805-775?) 
Agesilaus I (815-785?) - Charillus (c. 775-750) 
Archelaus (c.785-760) - Nicander (c.750-720) 
Teleclus (c.760-c.740) - Theopompus (c.720-675) 
Alacamenes (c.740-700) - Anaxandridas (c.675-660) 
Polydorus (c.700-c.665) - Archidamus I (c.660-645) 
Eurycrates (c.665-c.640) - Anaxilas (c.645-c.625) 
Anaxander (c.640-c.615) - Leotychidas I (c.625-600) 
Eurycratidas (c.615-c.590) - Hippocratidas (c.600-575) 
Leon (c.590-c.560) Agasicles - (c.575-550) 
Anaxandridas I (c.560-c.520) - Ariston (c.550-c.515) 
Cleomenes I (son) - (c.520-c.490) Demaratus (son)(c.515-491) 
Leonidas I (half-brother) - (c.490-480) Leotychidas II (cousin)(491-476) 
Pleistarchus (son) (480-458) - Archidamus II (grandson)(king regent: 476-469?
in his own right: 469-427) 
Pleistoanax(cousin; son of the regent
Pausanias, nephew of Leonidas)(458-408) In exile c.445-c.427 - Agis II (son)(427-399) 
Pausanias (son)(king regent: c.445-c.427;in his own right: 408-395) - Agesilaus II (half-brother)(399-360) 
Agesipolis I (son) (395-380) - Archidamus III (son)(360-338) 
Cleombrotus I (brother)(380-371) - Agis III (son)(338-331) 
Agesipolis II (son) (371-370) - Eudamidas I (brother) (331-c.305) 
Cleomenes II (brother)(370-309) - Archidamus IV (son)(c.305-c.275) 
Areus I (grandson)(309-265) - Eudamidas II (son)(c.275-244) 
Acrotatus (son)(265-c.260) - Agis IV (son)(244-241) 
Areus II (son)(c.260-c.251) - Eudamidas III (son)(241-c.228) 
Leonidas II(grandson of Cleomenes II)(c.251-236)In exile c.243-241 - Archidamus V (uncle; brother of Agis IV)(c.228-227) 

Famous Kings and Commanders
The most famous Spartan Kings are Menelaos, Leonidas, Pausanias, and Agesilaus. Menelaos, though not Dorian and probably more mythological than historical, helped lead the Greek forces that besieged Troy. He was considered a fierce fight but a calm headed man. 
Leonidas inspired the rest of Greece by fighting to the death against the Persian invaders at Thermopylae. He was an old man (By modern standards, not ancient) by the time he was struck down along with his fampus brave 300, and his moral impact on Greece would perhaps keep the Greeks fighting throughout the rest of the Persian Wars.

Pausanias was the nephew of Leonidas and had defeated the last Persian armies in Greece. Soon after, he tried to make Sparta great by working with outside nations and such, but he was executed for treason against Sparta with Persia.

Agesilaus ruled Sparta at it's very height of power. He campaigned against Persia and was not defeated, and helped prove that the Greeks could battle the Persians and win in offensive campaigns. Though he had to turn back because of throubles in Greece, Alexander the Great followed the path he had laid and conquered Persia

c.1200 - Mycenean Lakedaemon joins Mycenean expedition to Troy
c.1100 - Fall of Mycenaean kingdom of Lakedaemon. Beginning of Dorian invasion from Illyria
1115(?) - Dorian colonization of Melos and Gortyn from Lakonia 
850(?) - Four towns obes politically united to form single Sparta 
c.750 - Capture of Amyklai 
c.736-716 - First Messenian War 
c.720 - Argives capture Asine 
706 - Founding of the only Spartan colony; Tarentum 
676 - Major reform of Karneia. Great Rhetra. 
669 - Spartans defeat Argives at Hysiai 
668 - First Gymnopaidai 
659 - Spartan capture of Phigaleia 
657 - Spartan capture of Hira in Tyrtaios' war 
c.600 - Conquest of Pylos and Mothone by Spartan forces
560-550 - Spartan war with Tegea; alliance between Anaxandrdides and Ariston 
556 - Khilon first ephor 
546 - Battle of Champions(With Argos) 
519 - Kleomenes at Plataiai 
c.505 - Development of Peloponnesian League (Basic Spartan Empire)
c.494 - Battle of Sepeia 
490 - Death of Kleomenes 
480 - Battle of Thermopylae (The 300 Spartans)
479 - Battle of Plataea
461-446 - First Peloponnesian War 
431-404 - Second Peloponnesian War 
404-371 - Spartan Hegemony (Height of Spartan power)
401-400 - Expedition of the 10,000 to Asia 
394 - Battle of Nemea (Spartans defeat large allied Greek army)
371 - Battle of Leuktra (Major loss of Spartan power) 
244-241--Agis IV King of Sparta 
235-222--Kleomenes III king at Sparta 

Historical Sites
Though today Sparta doesn't have too many famous places to visit, it still has some interesting historic sites...