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After hearing a plea for help from Athens who were facing the Persians at Marathon in BC, Sparta decided to honor its laws and wait until the moon was full to send an army.
As a result, Sparta's army arrived at Marathon after the battle had been won by the Athenians. In the second campaign, conducted ten years later by Xerxes , Sparta faced the same dilemma.
The Persians inconveniently chose to attack during the Olympic truce which the Spartans felt they must honor. Other Greek states which lacked such scruples were making a major effort to assemble a fleet — how could Sparta not contribute on land when others were doing so much on sea?
However, there are indications that Sparta's religious scruples were merely a cover. From this interpretation, Sparta believed that the defense of Thermopylae was hopeless and wished to make a stand at the Isthmus, but they had to go through the motions or Athens might ally itself with Persia.
The loss of Athens's fleet would simply be too great a loss to the Greek resistance to be risked. In BC, a small force of Spartans, Thespians, and Thebans led by King Leonidas approximately were full Spartiates, were Thespians, and were Thebans; these numbers do not reflect casualties incurred prior to the final battle , made a legendary last stand at the Battle of Thermopylae against the massive Persian army, inflicting very high casualties on the Persian forces before finally being encircled.
The decisive victory of Salamis did not change Sparta's essential dilemma. Ideally, they would wish to fight at the Isthmus where they would avoid the risk of their infantry being caught in the open by the Persian cavalry.
However, in BC, the remaining Persian forces under Mardonius devastated Attica, Athenian pressure forced Sparta to lead an advance.
In the resulting Battle of Plataea the Greeks under the generalship of the Spartan Pausanias overthrew the lightly armed Persian infantry, killing Mardonius.
The superior weaponry, strategy, and bronze armour of the Greek hoplites and their phalanx again proved their worth one year later when Sparta assembled at full strength and led a Greek alliance against the Persians at the battle of Plataea.
Even though this war was won by a pan-Greek army, credit was given to Sparta, who besides being the protagonist at Thermopylae and Plataea, had been the de facto leader of the entire Greek expedition.
When this victory led to a revolt of the Ionian Greeks it was Sparta that rejected their admission to the Hellenic alliance. Sparta proposed that they should abandon their homes in Anatolia and settle in the cities that had supported the Persians.
However, his arrogant behavior forced his recall. Pausanias had so alienated the Ionians that they refused to accept the successor, Dorcis , that Sparta sent to replace him.
Instead those newly liberated from Persia turned to Athens. In later Classical times, Sparta along with Athens , Thebes , and Persia had been the main powers fighting for supremacy against each other.
As a result of the Peloponnesian War , Sparta, a traditionally continental culture, became a naval power. At the peak of its power Sparta subdued many of the key Greek states and even managed to overpower the elite Athenian navy.
By the end of the 5th century BC, it stood out as a state which had defeated the Athenian Empire and had invaded the Persian provinces in Anatolia, a period which marks the Spartan Hegemony.
The Sparta earthquake of BC destroyed much of Sparta. Historical sources suggest that the death toll may have been as high as 20,, although modern scholars suggest that this figure is likely an exaggeration.
The earthquake sparked a revolt of the helots, the slave class of Spartan society. Events surrounding this revolt led to an increase in tension between Sparta and their rival Athens and the cancellation of a treaty between them.
After the troops of a relief expedition dispatched by conservative Athenians were sent back with cold thanks, Athenian democracy itself fell into the hands of reformers and moved toward a more populist and anti-Spartan policy.
Therefore, this earthquake is cited by historical sources as one of the key events that led up to the First Peloponnesian War.
Sparta's attention was at this time, fully occupied by troubles nearer home; such as the revolt of Tegea in about — BC , rendered all the more formidable by the participation of Argos.
In the immediate aftermath, the helots saw an opportunity to rebel. This was followed by the siege of Ithome which the rebel helots had fortified.
Sparta began to fear that the Athenian troops might make common cause with the rebels. Providing the official justification that since the initial assault on Ithome had failed, what was now required was a blockade, a task the Spartans did not need Athenian help with.
In Athens, this snub resulted in Athens breaking off its alliance with Sparta and allying with its enemy, Argos. Paul Cartledge hazards that the revolt of helots and perioeci led the Spartans to reorganize their army and integrate the perioeci into the citizen hoplite regiments.
Certainly a system where citizens and non-citizens fought together in the same regiments was unusual for Greece.
He agrees that the integration of perioeci and citizens occurred sometime between the Persian and the Peloponnesian Wars but doesn't regard that as a significant stage.
The Spartans had been using non-citizens as hoplites well before that and the proportion did not change. He doubts that the Spartans ever subscribed to the citizen only hoplite force ideal, so beloved by writers such as Aristotle.
The Peloponnesian Wars were the protracted armed conflicts, waged on sea and land, of the last half of the 5th century BC between the Delian League controlled by Athens and the Peloponnesian League dominated by Sparta over control of the other Greek city-states.
The Delian League is often called "the Athenian Empire" by scholars. The Peloponnesian League believed it was defending itself against Athenian aggrandizement.
The war had ethnic overtones that generally but not always applied: the Delian League included populations of Athenians and Ionians while the Peloponnesian League was mainly of Dorians , except that a third power, the Boeotians , had sided tentatively with the Peloponnesian League.
They were never fully trusted by the Spartans. Ethnic animosity was fueled by the forced incorporation of small Dorian states into the Delian League, who appealed to Sparta.
Motivations, however, were complex, including local politics and considerations of wealth. In the end Sparta won, but it declined soon enough and was soon embroiled with wars with Boeotia and Persia, until being overcome finally by Macedon.
When the First Peloponnesian War broke out, Sparta was still preoccupied suppressing the helot revolt,  hence its involvement was somewhat desultory.
However they then returned home giving the Athenians an opportunity to defeat the Boeotians at the battle of Oenophyta and so overthrowing Boeotia.
By contrast, however, Sparta sought a thirty-year peace with Argos to ensure that they could strike Athens unencumbered. Thus Sparta was fully able to exploit the situation when Megara , Boeotia and Euboea revolted, sending an army into Attica.
The war ended with Athens deprived of its mainland possessions but keeping its vast Aegean Empire intact. But the treaty was broken when Sparta warred with Euboea.
Within six years, Sparta was proposing to its allies to go to war with Athens in support of the rebellion in Samos.
On that occasion Corinth successfully opposed Sparta and they were voted down. However, according to Thucydides the real cause of the war was Sparta's fear of the growing power of Athens.
Sparta entered with the proclaimed goal of the "liberation of the Greeks" — an aim that required a total defeat of Athens. Their method was to invade Attica in the hope of provoking Athens to give battle.
Athens, meanwhile, planned a defensive war. The Athenians would remain in their city, behind their impenetrable walls, and use their naval superiority to harass the Spartan coastline.
The war resumed in BC and lasted until BC. The arguments advanced in the assembly were that it would be a profitable possession and an enhancement of the empire.
They invested a large portion of the state resources in a military expedition, but recalled one of its commanders, Alcibiades , on a trumped-up charge of impiety some religious statues had been mutilated for which he faced the death penalty.
Escaping in his ship he deserted to Sparta. Having defaulted on the inquiry he was convicted in absentia and sentenced to death.
At first Sparta hesitated to resume military operations. The success of Sparta and the eventual capture of Athens in BC were aided partly by that advice.
He induced Sparta to send Gylippus to conduct the defence of Syracuse , to fortify Decelea in northern Attica, and to adopt a vigorous policy of aiding Athenian allies to revolt.
The next year they marched north, fortified Deceleia , cut down all the olive groves, which produced Athens' major cash crop, and denied them the use of the countryside.
Athens was now totally dependent on its fleet, then materially superior to the Spartan navy. Gylippus did not arrive alone at Syracuse. Collecting a significant force from Sicily and Spartan hoplites serving overseas he took command of the defense.
The initial Athenian force under Nicias had sailed boldly into the Great Harbor of Syracuse to set up camp at the foot of the city, which was on a headland.
Gylippus collected an international army of pro-Spartan elements from many parts of the eastern Mediterranean on the platform of liberation of Greece from the tyranny of Athens.
Ultimately the Athenian force was not large enough to conduct an effective siege. They attempted to wall in the city but were prevented by a counter-wall.
A second army under Demosthenes arrived. Finally the Athenian commanders staked everything on a single assault against a weak point on the headland, Epipolae, but were thrown back with great losses.
They were about to depart for Athens when an eclipse of the full moon moved the soothsayers to insist they remain for another nine days, just the time needed for the Syracusians to prepare a fleet to block the mouth of the harbor.
Events moved rapidly toward disaster for the Athenians. Attempting to break out of the harbor they were defeated in a naval battle.
The admiral, Eurymedon , was killed. Losing confidence in their ability to win, they abandoned the remaining ships and the wounded and attempted to march out by land.
The route was blocked at every crossing by Syracusians, who anticipated this move. The Athenian army marched under a rain of missiles.
When Nicias inadvertently marched ahead of Demosthenes the Syracusians surrounded the latter and forced a surrender, to which that of Nicias was soon added.
Both leaders were executed, despite the protests of Gylippus, who wanted to take them back to Sparta. Several thousand prisoners were penned up in the quarries without the necessities of life or the removal of the dead.
After several months the remaining Athenians were ransomed. The failure of the expedition in was a material loss the Athenians could hardly bear, but the war continued for another ten years.
Spartan shortcomings at sea were by this time manifest to them, especially under the tuteledge of Alcibiades. The lack of funds which could have proved fatal to Spartan naval warfare, was remedied by the intervention of Persia, which supplied large subsidies.
In the agents of Tissaphernes , the Great King's governor of such parts of the coast of Asia Minor as he could control, approached Sparta with a deal.
The Great King would supply funds for the Spartan fleet if the Spartans would guarantee to the king what he considered ancestral lands; to wit, the coast of Asia Minor with the Ionian cities.
An agreement was reached. A Spartan fleet and negotiator was sent to Asia Minor. The negotiator was Alcibiades, now persona non-grata in Sparta because of his new mistress, the wife of King Agis, then away commanding the garrison at Deceleia.
After befriending Tissaphernes Alcibiades was secretly offered an honorable return to Athens if he would influence the latter on their behalf.
He was a double agent, — The Spartans received little money or expert advice. By the Great King had perceived that the agreement with the Spartans was not being implemented.
He sent his brother, Cyrus the younger , to relieve Tissaphernes of his command of Lydia. Tissaphernes was pushed aside to the governorship of Caria.
Exposed, Alcibiades departed for Athens in In his place Sparta sent an agent of similar capabilities, a friend of King Agis, Lysander , who as "a diplomat and organizer Upgrade of the Spartan fleet proceeded rapidly.
In Alcibiades returned as the commander of an Athenian squadron with the intent of destroying the new Spartan fleet, but it was too late.
He was defeated by Lysander at the Battle of Notium. The suspicious Athenian government repudiated its arrangement with Alcibiades. He went into exile a second time, to take up residence in a remote villa in the Aegean, now a man without a country.
Lysander's term as navarch then came to an end. He was replaced by Callicratidas but Cyrus now stinted his payments for the Spartan fleet.
The funds allocated by the Great King had been used up. On Callicratides' defeat and death at the Battle of Arginusae the Spartans offered peace on generous terms.
The Delian League would be left in place. Athens would still be allowed to collect tribute for its defense.
The war party at Athens, however, mistrusted Sparta. One of its leaders, Cleophon , addressed the assembly wearing his armor, drunk. He demanded the Spartans withdraw from all cites they then held as a precondition of peace.
The assembly rejected the Spartan offer. It undertook a new offensive against Spartan allies in the Aegean. Together they formulated an appeal to Sparta that Lysander be sent out for a second term.
Both Spartan political norms and the Spartan constitution should have prevented his second term, but in the wake of the new Spartan defeat a circumvention was found.
Lysander would be the secretary of a nominal navarch, Aracus , with the rank of vice-admiral. Lysander was again entrusted with all the resources needed to maintain and operate the Spartan fleet.
Cyrus supplied the funds from his own resources. The Great King now recalled Cyrus to answer for the execution of certain members of the royal family.
Cyrus appointed Lysander governor in his place, giving him the right to collect taxes. Lysander then sailed at his leisure for Athens to impose a blockade.
If he encountered a state of the Delian League on his way he gave the Athenian garrison the option of withdrawing to Athens; if they refused, their treatment was harsh.
He replaced democracies with pro-Spartan decarchies under a Spartan harmost. After the Battle of Aegospotami the Spartan navy sailed where it pleased unopposed.
A fleet of ships entered the Saronic Gulf to impose a blockade on Piraeus. Athens was cut off. In the winter of the Athenians sent a delegation to King Agis at Deceleia proposing to become a Spartan ally if only they would be allowed to keep the walls intact.
He sent them on to Sparta. The delegation was turned back on the road by the ephors. After hearing the terms they suggested the Athenians return with better ones.
The Athenians appointed Theramenes to discuss the matter with Lysander , but the latter had made himself unavailable.
Theramenes found him, probably on Samos. After a wait of three months he returned to Athens saying that Lysander had delayed him and that he was to negotiate with Sparta directly.
A board of nine delegates was appointed to go with Thermenes to Sparta. Marriage was important to Spartans, as the state put pressure on people to have male children who would grow up to become citizen-warriors, and replace those who died in battle.
Men who delayed marriage were publicly shamed, while those who fathered multiple sons could be rewarded. In preparation for marriage, Spartan women had their heads shaved; they kept their hair short after they wed.
Married couples typically lived apart, as men under 30 were required to continue residing in communal barracks. In order to see their wives during this time, husbands had to sneak away at night.
In B. In a further blow, late the following year, Theban general Epaminondas c. The Spartans would continue to exist, although as a second-rate power in a long period of decline.
In ,Otto , the king of Greece, ordered the founding of the modern-day town of Sparti on the site of ancient Sparta. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!
Subscribe for fascinating stories connecting the past to the present. How will it end? Who was the first man? Where do souls go after death? By turns charismatic and ruthless, brilliant and power hungry, diplomatic and The two most powerful city-states in ancient Greece, Athens and Sparta, went to war with each other from to B.
The Peloponnesian War marked a significant power shift in ancient Greece, favoring Sparta, and also ushered in a period of regional decline that signaled the The so-called golden age of Athenian culture flourished under the leadership of Pericles B.
Pericles transformed his The Battle of Marathon in B. The battle was fought on the Marathon plain of northeastern Attica and marked the first blows of the Greco-Persian War.
With the Persians closing in on the Greek capitol, Athenian general The Athenian philosopher Plato c. In his written dialogues he conveyed and expanded on the ideas and techniques of his teacher Socrates.
As king, he named his country after himself and the city after his wife. A shrine was erected to him in the neighborhood of Therapne. Suppose the city of Sparta to be deserted, and nothing left but the temples and the ground-plan, distant ages would be very unwilling to believe that the power of the Lacedaemonians was at all equal to their fame.
Their city is not built continuously, and has no splendid temples or other edifices; it rather resembles a group of villages, like the ancient towns of Hellas, and would therefore make a poor show.
Until the early 20th century, the chief ancient buildings at Sparta were the theatre , of which, however, little showed above ground except portions of the retaining walls ; the so-called Tomb of Leonidas , a quadrangular building, perhaps a temple, constructed of immense blocks of stone and containing two chambers; the foundation of an ancient bridge over the Eurotas ; the ruins of a circular structure; some remains of late Roman fortifications ; several brick buildings and mosaic pavements.
The remaining archaeological wealth consisted of inscriptions, sculptures, and other objects collected in the local museum, founded by Stamatakis in and enlarged in Partial excavation of the round building was undertaken in and by the American School at Athens.
The structure has been since found to be a semicircular retaining wall of Hellenic origin that was partly restored during the Roman period.
In , the British School at Athens began a thorough exploration of Laconia , and in the following year excavations were made at Thalamae , Geronthrae , and Angelona near Monemvasia.
In , excavations began in Sparta itself. A "small circus" as described by Leake proved to be a theatre-like building constructed soon after CE around the altar and in front of the temple of Artemis Orthia.
It is believed that musical and gymnastic contests took place here, as well as the famous flogging ordeal administered to Spartan boys diamastigosis.
The temple, which can be dated to the 2nd century BCE, rests on the foundation of an older temple of the 6th century, and close beside it were found the remains of a yet earlier temple, dating from the 9th or even the 10th century.
The votive offerings in clay, amber, bronze, ivory and lead dating from the 9th to the 4th centuries BCE, which were found in great profusion within the precinct range, supply invaluable information about early Spartan art.
Though the actual temple is almost completely destroyed, the site has produced the longest extant archaic inscription in Laconia, numerous bronze nails and plates, and a considerable number of votive offerings.
The late Roman wall enclosing the acropolis, part of which probably dates from the years following the Gothic raid of CE , was also investigated.
Besides the actual buildings discovered, a number of points were situated and mapped in a general study of Spartan topography, based upon the description of Pausanias.
Built around the early 8th century BCE, the Spartans believed it had been the former residence of Menelaus. In the British School in Athens started excavations around the Menelaion in an attempt to locate Mycenaean remains in the area.
Among other findings, they uncovered the remains of two Mycenaean mansions and found the first offerings dedicated to Helen and Menelaus.
These mansions were destroyed by earthquake and fire, and archaeologists consider them the possible palace of Menelaus himself.
Its area was approximately equal to that of the "newer" Sparta, but denudation has wreaked havoc with its buildings and nothing is left of its original structures save for ruined foundations and broken potsherds.
The prehistory of Sparta is difficult to reconstruct because the literary evidence was written far later than the events it describes and is distorted by oral tradition.
This civilization seems to have fallen into decline by the late Bronze Age , when, according to Herodotus, Macedonian tribes from the north called Dorians by those they conquered marched into the Peloponnese and, subjugating the local tribes, settled there.
The evidence suggests that Sparta, relatively inaccessible because of the topography of the Taygetan plain, was secure from early on: it was never fortified.
Nothing distinctive in the archaeology of the Eurotas River Valley identifies the Dorians or the Dorian Spartan state.
The legendary period of Spartan history is believed to fall into the Dark Age. It treats the mythic heroes such as the Heraclids and the Perseids , offering a view of the occupation of the Peloponnesus that contains both fantastic and possibly historical elements.
The subsequent proto-historic period, combining both legend and historical fragments, offers the first credible history. Between the 8th and 7th centuries BCE the Spartans experienced a period of lawlessness and civil strife, later attested by both Herodotus and Thucydides.
During the following centuries, Sparta's reputation as a land-fighting force was unequalled. The likely total of 40,—50, made Sparta one of the larger Greek city-states;   however, according to Thucydides, the population of Athens in BCE was ,—,, making it much larger.
In BCE a small force led by King Leonidas about full Spartiates, Thespians, and Thebans, although these numbers were lessened by earlier casualties made a legendary last stand at the Battle of Thermopylae against the massive Persian army, inflicting very high casualties on the Persian forces before finally being overwhelmed.
Even though this war was won by a pan-Greek army, credit was given to Sparta, who besides providing the leading forces at Thermopylae and Plataea, had been the de facto leader of the entire Greek expedition.
In later Classical times, Sparta along with Athens , Thebes , and Persia were the main powers fighting for supremacy in the northeastern Mediterranean.
In the course of the Peloponnesian War , Sparta, a traditional land power, acquired a navy which managed to overpower the previously dominant flotilla of Athens, ending the Athenian Empire.
At the peak of its power in the early 4th century BCE, Sparta had subdued many of the main Greek states and even invaded the Persian provinces in Anatolia modern day Turkey , a period known as the Spartan Hegemony.
The alliance was initially backed by Persia, which feared further Spartan expansion into Asia. The event severely damaged Sparta's naval power but did not end its aspirations of invading further into Persia, until Conon the Athenian ravaged the Spartan coastline and provoked the old Spartan fear of a helot revolt.
After a few more years of fighting, in BCE the Peace of Antalcidas was established, according to which all Greek cities of Ionia would return to Persian control, and Persia's Asian border would be free of the Spartan threat.
This was the first time that a full strength Spartan army lost a land battle. As Spartan citizenship was inherited by blood, Sparta increasingly faced a helot population that vastly outnumbered its citizens.
The alarming decline of Spartan citizens was commented on by Aristotle. Sparta never fully recovered from its losses at Leuctra in BCE and the subsequent helot revolts.
Nonetheless, it was able to continue as a regional power for over two centuries. Even during its decline, Sparta never forgot its claim to be the "defender of Hellenism" and its Laconic wit.
When Philip created the League of Corinth on the pretext of unifying Greece against Persia, the Spartans chose not to join, since they had no interest in joining a pan-Greek expedition unless it were under Spartan leadership.
Thus, upon defeating the Persians at the Battle of the Granicus , Alexander the Great sent to Athens suits of Persian armour with the following inscription: "Alexander, son of Philip, and all the Greeks except the Spartans, give these offerings taken from the foreigners who live in Asia".
A large Macedonian army under general Antipater marched to its relief and defeated the Spartan-led force in a pitched battle. On his knees, the Spartan king slew several enemy soldiers before being finally killed by a javelin.
Spartan political independence was put to an end when it was eventually forced into the Achaean League after its defeat in the decisive Laconian War by a coalition of other Greek city-states and Rome and the resultant overthrow of its final king Nabis.
Subsequently, Sparta became a free city under Roman rule, some of the institutions of Lycurgus were restored,  and the city became a tourist attraction for the Roman elite who came to observe exotic Spartan customs.
In CE Roman emperor Caracalla , in his preparation for his campaign against Parthia , recruited a man Spartan cohort lokhos. Herodian described this unit as a phalanx , implying it fought like the old Spartans as hoplites, or even as a Macedonian phalanx.
Despite this, a gravestone of a fallen legionary named Marcus Aurelius Alexys shows him lightly armed, with a pilos-like cap and a wooden club.
The unit was presumably discharged in after Caracalla was assassinated. Doric -speaking populations survive today in Tsakonia. In the Middle Ages, the political and cultural center of Laconia shifted to the nearby settlement of Mystras , and Sparta fell further in even local importance.
Modern Sparti was re-founded in , by a decree of King Otto of Greece. Sparta was an oligarchy. The state was ruled by two hereditary kings of the Agiad and Eurypontid families ,  both supposedly descendants of Heracles and equal in authority, so that one could not act against the power and political enactments of his colleague.
The duties of the kings were primarily religious, judicial, and military. As chief priests of the state, they maintained communication with the Delphian sanctuary, whose pronouncements exercised great authority in Spartan politics.
In the time of Herodotus c. Aristotle describes the kingship at Sparta as "a kind of unlimited and perpetual generalship" Pol. Civil and criminal cases were decided by a group of officials known as the ephors , as well as a council of elders known as the gerousia.
The gerousia consisted of 28 elders over the age of 60, elected for life and usually part of the royal households, and the two kings.
Royal prerogatives were curtailed over time. From the period of the Persian wars, the king lost the right to declare war and was accompanied in the field by two ephors.
He was supplanted by the ephors also in the control of foreign policy. Over time, the kings became mere figureheads except in their capacity as generals.
Political power was transferred to the ephors and gerousia. An assembly of citizens called the a pella  was responsible for electing men to the gerousia for life.
The Spartan education process known as the agoge was essential for full citizenship. However, usually the only boys eligible for the agoge were Spartiates , those who could trace their ancestry to the original inhabitants of the city.
There were two exceptions. Trophimoi or "foster sons" were foreign students invited to study. The Athenian general Xenophon , for example, sent his two sons to Sparta as trophimoi.
Also, the son of a helot could be enrolled as a syntrophos  if a Spartiate formally adopted him and paid his way; if he did exceptionally well in training, he might be sponsored to become a Spartiate.
These laws meant that Sparta could not readily replace citizens lost in battle or otherwise, which eventually proved near fatal as citizens became greatly outnumbered by non-citizens, and even more dangerously by helots.
The other classes were the perioikoi , free inhabitants who were non-citizens, and the helots ,  state-owned serfs. Descendants of non-Spartan citizens were forbidden the agoge.
The Spartans were a minority of the Lakonian population. The helots were originally free Greeks from the areas of Messenia and Lakonia whom the Spartans had defeated in battle and subsequently enslaved.
In contrast to populations conquered by other Greek cities [ citation needed ] e. Instead, the helots were given a subordinate position in society more comparable to serfs in medieval Europe than chattel slaves in the rest of Greece.
Helots did not have voting or political rights. In other Greek city-states, free citizens were part-time soldiers who, when not at war, carried on other trades.
Since Spartan men were full-time soldiers, they were not available to carry out manual labour. Helot women were often used as wet nurses.
Helots also travelled with the Spartan army as non-combatant serfs. At the last stand of the Battle of Thermopylae , the Greek dead included not just the legendary three hundred Spartan soldiers but also several hundred Thespian and Theban troops and a number of helots.
There was at least one helot revolt c. Slave revolts occurred elsewhere in the Greek world, and in BCE 20, Athenian slaves ran away to join the Spartan forces occupying Attica.
As the Spartiate population declined and the helot population continued to grow, the imbalance of power caused increasing tension.
They assign to the Helots every shameful task leading to disgrace. Moreover, if any exceeded the vigour proper to a slave's condition, they made death the penalty; and they allotted a punishment to those controlling them if they failed to rebuke those who were growing fat.
Plutarch also states that Spartans treated the Helots "harshly and cruelly": they compelled them to drink pure wine which was considered dangerous — wine usually being cut with water " Each year when the Ephors took office, they ritually declared war on the helots, allowing Spartans to kill them without risk of ritual pollution.
The helots were invited by a proclamation to pick out those of their number who claimed to have most distinguished themselves against the enemy, in order that they might receive their freedom; the object being to test them, as it was thought that the first to claim their freedom would be the most high spirited and the most apt to rebel.
As many as two thousand were selected accordingly, who crowned themselves and went round the temples, rejoicing in their new freedom.
The Spartans, however, soon afterwards did away with them, and no one ever knew how each of them perished. The Perioikoi came from similar origins as the helots but occupied a significantly different position in Spartan society.
Although they did not enjoy full citizen-rights, they were free and not subjected to the same restrictions as the helots.
The exact nature of their subjection to the Spartans is not clear, but they seem to have served partly as a kind of military reserve, partly as skilled craftsmen and partly as agents of foreign trade.
Full citizen Spartiates were barred by law from trade or manufacture, which consequently rested in the hands of the Perioikoi. Allegedly, Spartans were prohibited from possessing gold and silver coins, and according to legend Spartan currency consisted of iron bars to discourage hoarding.
Allegedly as part of the Lycurgan Reforms in the mid-8th century BCE, a massive land reform had divided property into 9, equal portions.
Each citizen received one estate, a kleros , which was expected to provide his living. From the other half, the Spartiate was expected to pay his mess syssitia fees, and the agoge fees for his children.
However, we know nothing of matters of wealth such as how land was bought, sold, and inherited, or whether daughters received dowries. Attempts were made to remedy this by imposing legal penalties upon bachelors,  but this could not reverse the trend.
Sparta was above all a militarist state, and emphasis on military fitness began virtually at birth. Shortly after birth, a mother would bathe her child in wine to see whether the child was strong.
If the child survived it was brought before the Gerousia by the child's father. The Gerousia then decided whether it was to be reared or not.