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Trace How Sparta Developed Into The Most Militarily Effective State In Greece (800 550 Bc)

2034 words - 9 pages

This question will look at how Sparta grew to become the most powerful Greek state by 550BC, and how the different aspects of state policy brought this about. Most remarkable of all is that this successful ascendancy was achieved with a remarkably small citizen population compared to other poleis. The essay will focus on three main aspects that will be discussed individually and then linked together to help explain the greatness of Sparta's military prowess and success. To begin with there was the unusual political and societal arrangement that consisted of helots and Periokoi at the bottom of the social hierarchy; supposedly instituted by the reforms proposed by Lycurgus. He was also ...view middle of the document...

So the Spartan poleis began to take shape across the laconian plain as many smaller villages were incorporated into the Spartan population. The first major conquest that Sparta undertook to expand its territories, midway through the eighth century B.C was in Messina, which was the neighbouring land to the west of Sparta. The war was a colonial movement based essentially on the need for land as an economic channel to ensure the survival of its people. "With our king, Theopompus dear to the gods, through whom we took wide Messenia, Messenia excellent for ploughing and excellent for planting…" The conquest of Messina generated a different outlook on Sparta as it created a new social and economic basis for its development into a powerful Greek state. Furthermore, this foreign policy that Sparta began to adopt had repercussions on the social order in Spartan territories, as the newly conquered people essentially became slaves to the 'Spartiatai' and this will be expanded upon later. Sparta now had a greater need- after expansion- to maintain its authority over its different subjects and required a powerful force to achieve this; the need demonstrated when the Spartans were defeated at the battle of Hysiai in c.669 B.C. Thus a hoplite class was created that would be an essential feature of Spartan success militarily and this had been indirectly caused by a "uniquely 'colonial' combination of economic and military factors…" The dominance of Sparta later on was demonstrated near the end of the time period for the essay topic, in 550 B.C. when Spartan expansion had helped create a secure foreign alliance system with her neighbours to maintain all supremacy over helots and at the same time make a stand against the system of tyranny that plagued many other states. In this way Sparta had assumed a position of leadership and was protected by its neighbours who swore to "…follow the Spartans wherever they lead". This system demonstrated how the Spartan military had reached attained stage of supremacy over the rest of Greece.Sparta's expansion policy led to profound social changes at home where there was a very large subject population who were conscious of their lost freedom in their own communities and willing and waiting to revolt at any opportunity. These conquered peoples formed a class of people known as the helots who were the "…hereditary subjects of the Spartan state" , mainly from the conquered lands of Laconia and Messina. The helots worked as farmers and craft workers producing much of the wealth that Spartiates lived and depended on and the farmers for example had to pay half their farm produce to their masters. Unsurprisingly the helot population greatly outnumbered the Spartan population, and as Herodotus writes in connection with the battle of Plataia; there were 5000 Spartans, 5000 Perioikoi and there were seven helots for every Spartan (Herodotus 9.28). This showed that in the initial stages the helots provided an...

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