Sparta (Higher Tier)


The focus of this unit is the unique social, political and military organisation of Sparta.

Candidates will be expected to have an understanding of the ethos of the Spartans and how such attitudes were encouraged and maintained in Sparta. Candidates should also be aware of the content and difficulties of assessing the value of non-Spartan sources on Spartan life. Some Spartan history should be studied in order to see Sparta acting as a military force in keeping with its ideals and goals.

Specific topics:

The Spartan State The geographical position of Sparta in Greece. Details of her policy towards and conquest of Messenia.

Sparta and other Greeks The nature and limitations of the evidence: Aristophanes, Xenophon and Plutarch on women and education. Aristotle on education and government. Spartan attitudes to non-Spartans. Sparta’s isolationism and the attitudes of other Greeks towards Sparta.

Social structure The Spartiatai, the Periokoi (origins) and the Helots (origins). The different duties and roles of each class. The concept of Eunomia.

Culture/ Artistic achievements Poetry (the nature of the content of the poems of Tyrtaios), bronze works, sculpture and pottery.

Government Eligibility, election, duties, responsibilities and limitations of: the Kings the Ephors the Gerousia the Ecclesia (Apella).

Lykourgos The legend of his establishment as a leader in Sparta. His contribution to education in Sparta.

Education of boys The purpose of the agoge. The treatment of boys, from birth to joining the military messes. Games, discipline, food, clothing, organisation (platoons, eirenes). The role of the paidonomos.

Women Their upbringing, marriage, daily life, physical appearance, duties and land holding. Attitude of other Greeks.

Military organisation The army’s organisation and fighting methods. Training, appearance and equipment (particularly based on statuary), accommodation. The syssitia, krypteia.

The Spartan army in action An understanding of the basic facts on the heroism of Leonidas and the 300. Candidates should be aware of the basic details of the account in Herodotus: Histories, Book VII, Chapters 207 to the end, including the role and influence of Demaratus