Sparta was unusual among the Greek city-states in that it maintained its kingship past the Archaic age. It was even more unusual in that it had two kings simultaneously, who were called the archagetai,[n 1] coming from two separate lines. According to tradition, the two lines, the Agiads and Eurypontids, were respectively descended from the twins Eurysthenes and Procles, the descendants of Heracles who supposedly conquered Sparta two generations after the Trojan War. The dynasties themselves, however, were named after the twins' grandsons, the kings Agis I and Eurypon, respectively. The Agiad line was regarded as being senior to the Eurypontid line.
Although there are lists of the earlier purported Kings of Sparta, there is little evidence for the existence of any kings before the middle of the sixth century BC or so.
Spartan kings received a recurring posthumous hero cult like that of the Doric kings of Cyrene. The kings' firstborns sons, as heirs apparent, were the only Spartan boys expressly exempt from the Agoge; however, they were allowed to take part if they so wished, and this endowed them with increased prestige when they ascended the throne.
Zeus on his throne with his eagle
This article is part of the series:
Laws of Lycurgus
|List of Kings of Sparta|
Spartan army • Other Greek city-states • Law Portal
The ancient Greeks named males after their fathers, producing a patronymic by infixing -id-; for example, the sons of Atreus were the Atreids. In the case of royal houses the patronymic formed from the founder or an early significant figure became the name of the dynasty. A ruling family might in this way have a number of dynastic names; for example, Agis I named the Agiads, but he was a Heraclid, and so were his descendants.
In cases where the descent was not known or was scantily known the Greeks made a few standard assumptions based on their cultural ideology. A people was treated as a tribe, presumed to have descended from an ancestor bearing its name. He must have been a king, who founded a dynasty of his name. This mythologizing extended even to place names. They were presumed to have been named after kings and divinities. Kings often became divinities, in their religion.
The Lelegid were the descendants of Lelex (a back formation), ancestor of the Leleges, a Pelasgian tribe inhabiting the Eurotas valley before the Greeks, who, according to the mythological descent, amalgamated with the Greeks.
|Year||Lelegid||Other notable information|
|c. 1600 BC||Lelex||son of Poseidon or Helios, or he was said to be autochthonous|
|c. 1575 BC||Myles||son of Lelex|
|c. 1550 BC||Eurotas||son of Myles, father of Sparta|
The Lacedaemonids contain Greeks from the age of legend, now treated as being the Bronze Age in Greece. In the language of mythologic descent, the kingship passed from the Leleges to the Greeks.
|Year||Lacedaemonid||Other notable information|
|c.||Lacedaemon||son of Zeus, husband of Sparta|
|c.||Amyklas||son of Lacedaemon. He founded Amyklai|
|c.||Argalus||son of Amyklas|
|c.||Kynortas||son of Amyklas|
|c.||Perieres||son of Kynortas|
|c.||Oibalos||son of Kynortas|
|c.||Tyndareos||(First reign); son of Oibalos and father of Helen|
|c.||Hippocoon||son of Oibalos and brother of Tyndareos|
The Atreidai (Latin Atreidae) belong to the Late Bronze Age, or Mycenaean Period. In mythology these were the Perseides. As the name of Atreus is attested in Hittite documents, this dynasty may well be proto-historic.
|Year||Atreid||Other notable information|
|c. 1250 BC||Menelaus||son of Atreus and husband of Helen|
|c. 1150's BC||Orestes||son of Agamemnon and nephew of Menelaus|
|c.||Tisamenos||son of Orestes|
|c. 1100 BC||Dion||husband of Iphitea, the daughter of Prognaus|
The Spartan kings as Heracleidae claimed descent from Heracles, who through his mother was descended from Perseus. Disallowed the Peloponnesus, Hercules embarked on a life of wandering. The Heraliadae became ascendant in the Eurotas valley with the Dorians who, at least in legend, entered it during an invasion called the return of the Heracleidae; driving out the Atreids and at least some of the Mycenaean population.
|Year||Heraclid||Other notable information|
|c.||Aristodemos||son of Aristomachus and husband of Argeia|
|c.||Theras (regent)||son of Autesion and brother of Aristodemus's wife Argeia;[n 2] served as regent for his nephews, Eurysthenes and Procles.|
The dynasty was named after its second king, Agis.
|Year||Agiad||Other notable information|
|c. 930 BC||Eurysthenes||Return of the Heracleidae|
|c. 930 – 900 BC[n 3]||Agis I||Subjugated the Helots|
|c. 900 – 870 BC||Echestratus||Expelled the Cynurensians[n 4] that were in power.|
|c. 870 – 840 BC||Labotas[n 5]|
|c. 840 – 820 BC||Doryssus|
|c. 820 – 790 BC||Agesilaus I|
|c. 790 – 760 BC||Archelaus|
|c. 760 – 758 BC||Teleclus||Killed by the Messenians|
|c. 758 – 741 BC||Alcamenes||First Messenian War begins|
|c. 741 – 665 BC||Polydorus||First Messenian War ends; killed by the Spartan nobleman Polemarchus|
|c. 665 – 640 BC||Eurycrates|
|c. 640 – 615 BC||Anaxander|
|c. 615 – 590 BC||Eurycratides|
|c. 590 – 560 BC||Leon|
|c. 560 – 520 BC||Anaxandridas II||Battle of the Fetters|
|c. 520 – 490 BC||Cleomenes I||Greco-Persian Wars begins|
|c. 490 – 480 BC||Leonidas I||Battle of Thermopylae|
|c. 480 – 459 BC||Pleistarchus||First Peloponnesian War begins|
|c. 459 – 445 BC, 426 – 409 BC||Pleistoanax||Second Peloponnesian War begins|
|c. 445 – 426 BC, 409 – 395 BC||Pausanias||Helped restore democracy in Athens; Spartan hegemony|
|c. 395 – 380 BC||Agesipolis I||Corinthian War begins|
|c. 380 – 371 BC||Cleombrotus I|
|c. 371 – 369 BC||Agesipolis II[n 6]|
|c. 369 – 309 BC||Cleomenes II||Third Sacred War begins|
|c. 309 – 265 BC||Areus I||Killed in battle against Aristodemus, the tyrant of Megalopolis|
|c. 265 – 262 BC||Acrotatus II|
|c. 262 – 254 BC||Areus II|
|c. 254 – 242 BC||Leonidas II||Briefly deposed while in exile avoiding trial|
|c. 242 – 241 BC||Cleombrotus II|
|c. 241 – 235 BC||Leonidas II|
|c. 235 – 222 BC||Cleomenes III||Exiled after the Battle of Sellasia|
|Following the Battle of Sellasia, the dual monarchy remained vacant until Cleomenes III's death in 219.|
|c. 219 – 215 BC||Agesipolis III||last Agiad, deposed by the Eurypontid Lycurgus|
The dynasty is named after its third king Eurypon. Not shown is Lycurgus, the lawgiver, a younger son of the Eurypontids, who served a brief regency either for the infant Charilaus (780–750 BC) or for Labotas (870–840 BC) the Agiad.
|Year||Eurypontid||Other notable information|
|c. 930 BC||Procles||Return of the Heracleidae|
|c. 890 BC||Soos[n 7]||Son of Procles and father of Eurypon.|
|c. 890 – 860 BC||Eurypon|
|c. 860 – 830 BC||Prytanis|
|c. 830 – 800 BC||Polydectes|
|c. 800 – 780 BC||Eunomus|
|c. 780 – 750 BC||Charilaus||Ward and nephew of the Spartan reformer Lycurgus; War with the Argives; destroyed the border-town of Aegys; Battle of Tegea.|
|c. 750 – 725 BC||Nicander|
|c. 725 – 675 BC||Theopompus||First Messenian War|
According to Herodotus, VIII: 131
According to Pausanias, III, 7: 5-6
|Year||Eurypontid||Other notable information|
|c. 575 – 550 BC||Agasicles||Contemporary with Leon|
|c. 550 – 515 BC||Ariston||Battle of the Fetters.|
|c. 515 – 491 BC||Demaratus||deposed|
|c. 491 – 469 BC||Leotychidas II||great grandson of Hippocratidas, Greco-Persian Wars|
|c. 469 – 427 BC||Archidamus II||Second Peloponnesian War begins|
|c. 427 – 401 BC[n 8]||Agis II||Spartan hegemony; Attacked Epidaurus, Leuctra,[n 9] Caryae, Orchomenos, and Mantineia; Invaded the Argolis; Council of war[n 10] formed to check his powers.|
|c. 401[n 8] – 360 BC||Agesilaus II||Corinthian War begins|
|c. 360 – 338 BC||Archidamus III||Third Sacred War begins|
|c. 338 – 331 BC||Agis III|
|c. 331 – 305 BC||Eudamidas I|
|c. 305 – 275 BC||Archidamus IV|
|c. 275 – 245 BC||Eudamidas II|
|c. 245 – 241 BC||Agis IV|
|c. 241 – 228 BC||Eudamidas III|
|c. 228 – 227 BC||Archidamus V|
|c. 227 – 222 BC||Eucleidas||Actually an Agiad; installed by Cleomenes III[n 11] in place of Archidamus V. Died in the Battle of Sellasia.|
|Following the Battle of Sellasia, the dual monarchy remained vacant until Cleomenes III's death in 219.|
|c. 219 – 210 BC||Lycurgus||deposes the Agiad Agesipolis III and ruled alone|
|c. 210 – 206 BC||Pelops||son of Lycurgus|
|Year||Tyrants||Other notable information|
|c. 210–207 BC||Machanidas||regent for Pelops|
|c. 206–192 BC||Nabis||first regent for Pelops, then usurper, claiming descent from the Eurypontid king Demaratus|
|c. 192 BC||Laconicus||last known king of Sparta from Heraclid dynasty|
The Achaean League annexed Sparta in 192 BC.
The 1st millennium BC is the period of time between from the year 1000 BC to 1 BC (10th to 1st centuries BC; in astronomy: JD 1356182.5 – 1721425.5).
It encompasses the Iron Age in the Old World and sees the transition from the Ancient Near East to classical antiquity.
World population roughly doubled over the course of the millennium,
from about 100 million to about 200–250 million.Agoge
The agōgē (Greek: ἀγωγή in Attic Greek, or ἀγωγά, agōgá in Doric Greek) was the rigorous education and training program mandated for all male Spartan citizens, except for the firstborn son in the ruling houses, Eurypontid and Agiad. The training involved cultivating loyalty to the Spartan group, military training (e.g., pain tolerance), hunting, dancing, singing, and social (communicating) preparation. The word "agoge" meant rearing in ancient Greek, but in this context generally meant leading, guidance, or training.According to folklore, agoge was introduced by the semi-mythical Spartan law-giver Lycurgus but its origins are thought to be between the 7th and 6th centuries BC when the state trained male citizens from the ages of seven to twenty-one.The aim of the system was to produce strong and capable warriors to serve in the Spartan army. It encouraged conformity and the importance of the Spartan state over one's personal interest and generated the future elites of Sparta. The men would become the "walls of Sparta" because Sparta was the only Greek city with no defensive walls after they had been demolished at the order of Lycurgus. Discipline was strict and the males were encouraged to fight amongst themselves to determine the strongest member of the group.
The agoge was prestigious throughout the Greek world, and many aristocratic families from other cities vied to send their sons to Sparta to participate in the agoge for varying periods of time. The Spartans were very selective in which young men they would permit to enroll. Such honors were usually awarded to the próxenoi of Sparta in other cities and to a few other families of supreme ancestry and importance.Apella
The Apella (Greek: Ἀπέλλα) was the popular deliberative assembly in the Ancient Greek city-state of Sparta, corresponding to the ecclesia in most other Greek states. Every Spartan male full citizen who had completed his thirtieth year was entitled to attend the meetings, which, according to Lycurgus' ordinance, must be held at the time of each full moon within the boundaries of Sparta.Cynortas
In Greek mythology, Cynortas or Cynortes (Ancient Greek: Κυνόρτας) or Cynortus was a king of Sparta.Ephor
The ephors were leaders of ancient Sparta and shared power with the two Spartan kings. The ephors were a council of five elected annually who swore "on behalf of the city", while the kings swore for themselves.Herodotus claimed that the institution was created by Lycurgus, while Plutarch considers it a later institution. It may have arisen from the need for governors while the kings were leading armies in battle. The ephors were elected by the popular assembly, and all citizens were eligible for election. They were forbidden to be reelected. They provided a balance for the two kings, who rarely cooperated with each other. Plato called the ephors tyrants who ran Sparta as despots, while the kings were little more than generals. Up to two ephors would accompany a king on extended military campaigns as a sign of control, and they held the authority to declare war during some periods in Spartan history. There were a total of 7 Ephors, consisting of the two kings and the 5 who were elected.
According to Plutarch, every autumn, at the crypteia, the ephors would pro forma declare war on the helot population so that any Spartan citizen could kill a helot without fear of blood guilt. This was done to keep the large helot population in check.
The ephors did not have to kneel down before the Kings of Sparta and were held in high esteem by the citizens, because of the importance of their powers and because of the holy role they earned throughout their functions. Since decisions were made by majority vote, this could mean that Sparta's policy could change quickly, when the vote of one ephor changed. (E.g. in 403 BC when Pausanias convinced three of the ephors to send an army to Attica; this was a complete turn around to the politics of Lysander.)
Cleomenes III abolished the ephors in 227 BC, but they were restored by the Macedonian king Antigonus III Doson after the Battle of Sellasia in 222 BC. Although Sparta fell under Roman rule in 146 BC, the position existed into the 2nd century AD, when it was probably abolished by the Roman emperor Hadrian and superseded by Imperial governance as part of the province of Achaea.Eurysthenes
In Greek mythology, Eurysthenes (Greek: Εὐρυσθένης, "widely ruling") was one of the Heracleidae, a great-great-great-grandson of Heracles, and a son of Aristodemus and Argia. His twin was Procles. Together they received the land of Lacedaemon after Cresphontes, Temenus and Aristodemus defeated Tisamenus, the last Achaean king of the Peloponnesus. Eurysthenes married Lathria, daughter of Thersander, King of Kleonoe, sister of his sister-in-law Anaxandra, and was the father of his successor, Agis I, founder of the Agiad dynasty of the Kings of Sparta.The title of archēgetēs, "founding magistrate," was explicitly denied to Eurysthenes and Procles by the later Spartan government on the grounds that they were not founders of a state, but were maintained in their offices by parties of foreigners. Instead the honor was granted to their son and grandson, for which reason the two lines were called the Agiads and the Eurypontids.Gerousia
The Gerousia (γερουσία) was the Spartan council of elders, which was made up of men over the age of sixty. It was created by the Spartan lawgiver Lycurgus in the seventh century BC, in his Great Rhetra ("Great Pronouncement"). According to Lycurgus' biographer Plutarch, the creation of the Gerousia was the first significant constitutional innovation instituted by Lycurgus.Great Rhetra
The Great Rhetra (Greek: Μεγάλη Ῥήτρα, literally: Great "Saying" or "Proclamation", charter) was used in two senses by the classical authors. In one sense, it was the Spartan Constitution, believed to have been formulated and established by the legendary lawgiver, Lycurgus. In the legend Lycurgus forbade any written constitution. It was therefore presumed to have been oral.
In a second sense, the rhetra refers to an oracle of Delphi, which was believed to have contained the entire constitution in verse. The credo of being unwritten fails in this case, as a written record of all oracles was maintained by the priests at Delphi. They and others consulted it frequently. It survived long after the demise of the oracle but is missing now, except for fragments handed down by classical authors.
The classical authors and the literate population of Sparta knew better than to suppose that the rhetra went into effect as written by an oracle and remained unchanged. A double tradition developed: tales of the oracular rhetra and stories of the laws of Lycurgus. As there is no history of any constitutional issues dividing the Spartans, they seem to have had no problem accepting its contradictions, perhaps because they knew it was legendary.
Also, the concept of the constitution being truly oral and a state secret presents certain paradoxes, such as how the classical authors knew so much about it. Moreover, the workings of the government of a major Greek state over centuries cannot have been either unwritten or a secret. For example, Cyrus the Younger knew perfectly well that Lysander was forbidden by law to hold a second term as navarch, and yet he requested the Spartan government to make an exception. And finally, if the Spartans were forbidden to write anything down, the existence of inscriptions in the Eurotas valley becomes problematic. The institution of the rhetra in fact coincides with the innovation of the Greek alphabet based on the Phoenician alphabet.Helots
The helots (; Ancient Greek: εἵλωτες, heílotes) were a subjugated population group that formed the main population of Laconia and Messenia, the territory controlled by Sparta. Their exact status was already disputed in antiquity: according to Critias, they were "slaves to the utmost", whereas according to Pollux, they occupied a status "between free men and slaves". Tied to the land, they primarily worked in agriculture as a majority and economically supported the Spartan citizens.
The number of helots in relation to Spartan citizens varied throughout the history of the Spartan state; according to Herodotus, there were seven helots for each Spartan at the time of the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC. Thus the need to keep helot population in check and preventing rebellion was one of the main concerns of the Spartans. Helots were ritually mistreated, humiliated and even slaughtered: every autumn the Spartans would declare war on the helots so they could be killed by a member of the Crypteia without fear of repercussion. Uprisings and attempts to improve the lot of the helots did occur, such as the Conspiracy of Cinadon.History of Sparta
The History of Sparta describes the destiny of the ancient Dorian Greek state known as Sparta from its beginning in the legendary period to its incorporation into the Achaean League under the late Roman Republic, as Allied State, in 146 BC, a period of roughly 1000 years. Since the Dorians were not the first to settle the valley of the Eurotas River in the Peloponnesus of Greece, the preceding Mycenaean and Stone Age periods are described as well. Sparta went on to become a district of modern Greece. Brief mention is made of events in the post-classical periods.
Dorian Sparta rose to dominance in the 6th century BC. At the time of the Persian Wars, it was the recognized leader by assent of the Greek city-states. It subsequently lost that assent through suspicion that the Athenians were plotting to break up the Spartan state after an earthquake destroyed Sparta in 464 BC. When Sparta defeated Athens in the Peloponnesian War, it secured an unrivaled hegemony over southern Greece. Sparta's supremacy was broken following the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC. It was never able to regain its military supremacy and was finally absorbed by the Achaean League in the 2nd century BC.Perioeci
The Perioeci or Períoikoi (Ancient Greek: Περίοικος, /peˈri.oj.koj/) were the members of an autonomous group of free non-citizen inhabitants of Sparta. Concentrated in the coastal and highland areas of Laconia and Messenia, the name Περίοικοι derives from περί, peri, "around", and οἶκος, oîkos, "dwelling, house". They were the only people allowed to travel to other cities, which the Spartans were not, unless given permission.Sparta
Sparta (Doric Greek: Σπάρτα, Spártā; Attic Greek: Σπάρτη, Spártē) was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece. In antiquity the city-state was known as Lacedaemon (Λακεδαίμων, Lakedaímōn), while the name Sparta referred to its main settlement on the banks of the Eurotas River in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. Around 650 BC, it rose to become the dominant military land-power in ancient Greece.
Given its military pre-eminence, Sparta was recognized as the leading force of the unified Greek military during the Greco-Persian Wars. Between 431 and 404 BC, Sparta was the principal enemy of Athens during the Peloponnesian War, from which it emerged victorious, though at a great cost of lives lost. Sparta's defeat by Thebes in the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC ended Sparta's prominent role in Greece. However, it maintained its political independence until the Roman conquest of Greece in 146 BC. It then underwent a long period of decline, especially in the Middle Ages, when many Spartans moved to live in Mystras. Modern Sparta is the capital of the Greek regional unit of Laconia and a center for the processing of goods such as citrus and olives.
Sparta was unique in ancient Greece for its social system and constitution, which configured their entire society to maximize military proficiency at all costs, and completely focused on military training and excellence. Its inhabitants were classified as Spartiates (Spartan citizens, who enjoyed full rights), mothakes (non-Spartan free men raised as Spartans), perioikoi (free residents, literally "dwellers around"), and helots (state-owned serfs, enslaved non-Spartan local population). Spartiates underwent the rigorous agoge training and education regimen, and Spartan phalanges were widely considered to be among the best in battle. Spartan women enjoyed considerably more rights and equality to men than elsewhere in the classical antiquity.
Sparta was the subject of fascination in its own day, as well as in Western culture following the revival of classical learning. This love or admiration of Sparta is known as Laconism or Laconophilia.
At its peak around 500 BC the size of the city would have been some 20,000–35,000 citizens, plus numerous helots and perioikoi. The likely total of 40,000–50,000 made Sparta one of the largest Greek cities; however, according to Thucydides, the population of Athens in 431 BC was 360,000–610,000, making it unlikely that Athens was smaller than Sparta in 5th century BC. The French classicist François Ollier in his 1933 book Le mirage spartiate ("The Spartan Mirage") warned that a major scholarly problem regarding Sparta is that all the surviving accounts were written by non-Spartans who often presented an excessively idealized image of Sparta.Spartan Constitution
The Spartan Constitution, or Politeia, refers to the government and laws of the Dorian city-state of Sparta from the time of Lycurgus, the legendary law-giver, to the incorporation of Sparta into the Roman Republic: approximately the 9th century BC to the 2nd century BC. Every city-state of Greece had a politeia at all times of its sovereign life, including the preceding Achaean Sparta and the subsequent Roman Sparta. The politeia of Dorian Sparta, however, was noted by many classical authors for its unique features, which supported a rigidly layered social system and a strong military.Spartan army
The Spartan army stood at the center of the Spartan state, citizens trained in the disciplines and honor of a warrior society. Subject to military drill from early manhood, the Spartans became one of the most feared military forces in the Greek world. At the height of Sparta's power – between the 6th and 4th centuries BC – it was commonly accepted by other Greeks that "one Spartan was worth several men of any other state". According to Thucydides, the famous moment of Spartan surrender on the island of Sphacteria, off Pylos, in 425 BC, was highly unexpected. He wrote that "it was the common perception at the time that Spartans would never lay down their weapons for any reason, be it hunger, or danger."
Tradition states that the semi-mythical Spartan legislator Lycurgus first founded the iconic army. Referring to Sparta as having a "wall of men, instead of bricks", he proposed to reform Spartan society to develop a military-focused lifestyle in accordance with "proper virtues" such as equality for the male citizens, austerity, strength, and fitness. A Spartan male's involvement with the army began in infancy when he was inspected by the Gerousia. Any baby judged weak or deformed was left at Mount Taygetus to die, since the world of the Spartans was no place for those who could not fend for themselves. (The practice of discarding children at birth took place in Athens as well.) Those deemed strong entered the agoge regime at the age of seven. Under the agoge the young boys or Spartiates underwent intense and rigorous military training. Their education focused primarily on cunning, sports and war tactics, but also included poetry, music, academics, and sometimes politics. Those who passed the agoge by the age of 30 achieved full Spartan citizenship.
The term "spartan" became synonymous with fearlessness, harsh and cruel life, endurance or simplicity by design.Spartiate
The Spartiates (Greek: Σπαρτιάτες, "Spartans") or Homoioi (Greek: Ὅμοιοι, "those who are alike"; sing. homoios) were the males of Sparta known to the Spartans as "peers" or "men of equal status". From a young age, male Spartiates were trained for battle and put through gruelling challenges intended to craft them into fearless warriors. In battle, they had the reputation of being the best soldiers in Greece, and the strength of Sparta's hoplite forces let the city become the dominant state in Greece throughout much of the Classical period. Other city-states were reluctant to attack Sparta even though it could muster a force of only about 8000 Spartiates during the zenith of its dominance, such was the reputation of its soldiers.Syssitia
The syssitia (Classical Greek: τὰ συσσίτια ta syssítia) were, in Ancient Greece, common meals for men and youths in social or religious groups, especially in Crete and Sparta, though also in Megara in the time of Theognis (6th century BC) and Corinth in the time of Periander (7th century BC).
The banquets spoken of by Homer relate to this tradition. Some reference to similar meals can be found in Carthage and according to Aristotle (Politics VII. 9), it prevailed still earlier amongst the Oenotrians of Southern Italy.The origin of the syssitia is unknown; while Lycurgus certainly made use of the practice in Sparta, we do not know whether he introduced the practice or developed an existing one.
Kings of Sparta