Assess the Significance of Social Structure Groups in Spartan Society Essay

Assess the significance of social structure groups in Spartan society. The social structure groups: Spartiates, Perioikoi and Helots were of equal significance in their respective extent in the Spartan society as they all had contributed fundamental elements, that were shaped by the Lycurgan reforms, which contributed to create an idealistic society of superiority, an incredible reputation of triumph and possessing such great dominance that enabled Sparta to be victorious and a very effective society for many centuries, though the cause of the downfall ironically was the Lycurgan reforms that could not adapt to change nor time.

This is seen where the Spartiates significantly provided the Spartan society with a strong military defence force, the Perioikoi and the Helots, also of great significance, provided society with the economic and agricultural foundation that is required for a society to function productively. However the Inferiors were insignificant in Spartan society, in comparison to the Spartiates, Perioikoi and the Helots, as they were seen to be outcasts of society that had no contribution to society.

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The Spartiates was a very significant social structure group, to the same extent as the Perioikoi and the Helots, in Spartan society as they maintained the Spartan defence and security through the agoge. The agoge was an effective military system in the Spartan society, which was only available to those who were of Spartiate status, whose purpose was to create fearless and loyal Spartan warriors developing a victorious army that was highly significant in Spartan society implementing a powerful defence force.

The agoge required that, as stated by Plutarch “… as boys reached the age of seven [they were to live with agelai in military barracks] … their whole education was aimed at developing smart obedience, perseverance under stress, and victory in battle. So as they grew older they intensified their physical training, and got into the habit of cropping their hair, going barefoot and exercising naked … This shows that the agoge was a crucial factor in this particular social structure group in Sparta as this was compulsory for all Spartiate boys that were deemed robust and as it developed the boys to be fierce warriors who were a part of a dynamic army it created a sound defence that denied any foreign penetration into their conformed society.

The agoge was very effective in achieving patriotism, loyalty, obedience and comradeship significantly increasing the Spartiates contribution to Sparta as they were able to solely concentrate on their role to serve their state with the best of their ability further enhancing the strength of their highly effective army. This exert from a poem by Tyrtaeus – “Let us fight with courage for our country, and for our children/Let us die and never spare our lives. Young men, remain beside each other and fight, /And do not begin shameful flight or fear, /But make your spirit great and brave in your heart, /And do not be faint-hearted when you fight with men …” strongly emphasises the pride and allegiance the Spartiates as well as Tyrtaeus himself, firmly believed in and it is these beliefs that had been coloured by the agoge system which had been significant to a large extent in Spartan society as it created patriotism, eliminating any factors of renegade or treason, stabilising the society.

The Spartiates was a very significant social structure group in Spartan society, along with the other significant social structure group, also because of the powerful army they had developed through the agoge which further stabilised the Spartan defence and their triumphs. Herodotus recounts of the determined Spartiates, “So it is with the Spartans; fighting singly, they are as good as any, but fighting together they are the best soldiers in the world … never to retreat in battle, however great the odds, but always to stand firm, and to conquer or die. evident of the reputation Sparta held of having the “best soldiers in the world” that would be predominately victorious from several battles. This increases the significance of the Spartiates in Sparta society as they provided the security that enabled the Spartan society to withstand the many battles for centuries. However, though the Spartiates had provided the element of security from the profound army, the Perioikoi were also of equal significance as the Spartiates and the Helots in Spartan society as the Perioikoi had contributed to society the element of industry and trade that enabled Sparta to effectively function productively.

The Perioikoi was also very significant to Sparta through their role as providers of the industry and trade who were in charge of mining, manufacture, commerce, mineral and marine resources as it provided Sparta the elements they were lacking of that would greatly disadvantage them with having no source of income. The Perioikoi were of paramount importance as they supported the Spartiates in solely concentrating on the army, who were forbidden to take part in such activities.

Grote states, “[They] must have carried on most of the commerce of export and import – the metallurgic enterprise and the distribution of internal produce – which the territory exhibited; since no Spartan ever meddled in such occupations” greatly clarifies that Spartiates were forbidden to take part in any trade activities and it also reveals that Sparta would have heavily depended on the role of the Perioikoi in providing the economic stability that would enable the society to function productively as the Spartiates were absent for military purposes to strengthen the defence of the Spartan society and together with the contribution of the Helots significantly assisted in the long reign of a successful society.

Likewise, the Helots was also a highly significant social structure group, also of comparable significance as the Spartiates and the Perioikoi in Spartan society as the Helots had provided Sparta the agricultural needs that was also a fundamental element, along with the economic and defence stability that was essential for Sparta to fully function productively. The contributions of the Helots were very significant as they were responsible for farming the land as no other social structure group was deemed insignificant in society to perform such tasks and this, additionally with the Perioikoi, enabled the Spartiates to extensively concentrate solely on their performance in the military which assisted in the developing an effective society where each social structure group were respectively significant in contributing to society what other social structure groups were not providing, allowing each group to only be concern with their assigned roles.

As Tyrtaeus notes, “asses exhausted under great loads: under painful necessity to bring their masters full half the fruit their ploughed land produces” clearly illustrates the conditions the Helots were constantly under revealing the prominence the Helots were to Spartan society. Furthermore, the Helots would have been very significant in Spartan society as it was the food source of Sparta as they were required to give more than half of their produce to the owners of the kleros. Moreover, the Helots were a highly significant structure group in Spartan society as the threat that they had imposed upon the Spartiates would impact on the perception of foreigners that would in some way encourage the Helots to revolt, therefore shaping the foreign policy of Spartan society.

As the numbers of Helots were significantly greater than the numbers of the Spartiates, it is imaginable that the Spartiates would have feared the Helots yet showed no such emotions and this would force the Spartiates to strengthen their policy of forbidding foreigners as well as tightening their boundaries in case of any invaders and army that had stayed within Sparta, Krypteia, according to Plutarch, to control the Helots from rebellion through fear as a part of their training and to dispose those who posed a threat to Spartan society. However the social structure group that consisted of the Inferiors in Spartan society was insignificant as they could not effectively contribute to Spartan society as they were seen as disgraceful in society who were either stripped of their privileges as result of the loss of their citizenship, disobedience or illegitimacy.

It is the loss of the Inferiors rights and privileges that had caused the Inferiors to be highly significant in Spartan society as they were excluded from Spartan society and hence were unable to contribute as effective as the other social structure groups in society. Nevertheless, if the inferiors were Partheniai, their significance would be considerably greater as they were able to engage in agoge or training that was similar that would allow them to fill the numbers of declining soldiers. Yet overall, the Inferiors were insignificant as a social structure group, in comparison to the Spartiates, the Perioikoi and the Helots, as their role and contributions was not as significant as the roles and contributions that were performed by the other social structure group.

In conclusion, each of the social structure groups; the Spartiates, the Perioikoi and the Helots played a significant role in maintaining the stability of Sparta as each of their specific contributions; as defence, economic and agricultural providers which enabled Sparta to become a feared society that function productively as each group were solely aimed to provided a specific area to society that assisted in developing a very effective and independent society. However the Inferiors were an insignificant social structure group to Spartan society as they were unable to perform roles, due to their status that was considered disgraceful and hence distanced from society, and were not as significant as the roles of the Spartiates, the Perioikoi and the Helots. ——————————————- [ 1 ]. T. Hurley, P. Medcalf, C. Murray, J Rolph Antiquity 2: Interpreting The Past (2008) [ 2 ]. http://www. fordham. edu/halsall/ancient/eb11-sparta. html [ 3 ]. G. Grote History of Greece London. (1884) [ 4 ]. http://alex. edfac. usyd. edu. au/BLP/websites/HOGAN/Sparta%20Homepage/helots. htm [ 5 ]. By day they would disperse to obscure spots in order to hide and rest. At night they made their way to roads and murdered any helot whom they caught. Frequently, too, they made their way through the fields, killing the helots who stood out for their physique and strength. — Plutarch On Sparta, pp. 40–1


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