Spartan Social Structure Essay

a. What were the geographical features of Sparta? The geographical features of Sparta were: * Mt. Taygetus * Eurotas river * Messenia b. Outline the role of the krypteia The krypteia was the secret police force of Sparta. It was run by the ephors who recruited young men and sent them out for a year to spy on the helots. The krypteia were authorised to kill helots, especially those who appeared to have the kinds of qualities that might fit them to lead a helot rebellion. c. Describe the education of Spartan boys

The education of Spartan boys was a brutal experience for all the boys; they were all to be trained well enough to be able to serve Sparta. Training for the Spartan military began at the age of seven and continued until the age of sixty, for those who lived that long. Usually the boys would be hit to help them toughen up or just because they were out of line, they trained and fought naked, ate a modest amount of food, entered public competitions, wore little amounts of clothing (loin cloth) and travelled to places barefoot; the boys had to partake in these methods because in doing so they are making themselves much more stronger.

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Spartan boys were disciplined to a great extent in order to create tough warriors who could endure any pain or discomfort and who would die fighting rather than face the disgrace of retreat or surrender. The agoge, the Spartan education system for boys, was to produce such warriors. It exercised total control over the boys between the ages of seven and twenty. From a very young age boys were always encouraged and pressured to conform and when they did they built up a more trusting relationship with the other boys and men.

Disassociating the boys was also another form of method used to help the boys conform, as Hodkinson states, it was to “… assert collective over private interests… ” Overall, the education of Spartan boys was one that contained brutality, obedience and bravery in order to create great Spartan warriors. d. Explain the organisation of the Spartan social structure The Spartan social structure was made up of many groupings that all helped benefit Sparta in various ways.

These groupings all differentiated from each other in regards to the roles that they played, although, in a way they were also alike because all things considered their hard work always seemed to contribute in keeping Sparta intact. The helots were a large number of people that had been captured from Messenia and imprisoned in Sparta; they were held as slaves to provide for Sparta. The helots were agricultural workers that worked on Spartan estates to produce crops. The men of Sparta were all extremely strong and had military expertise which obviously meant that they were to serve and protect Sparta.

The reason why the Spartiates were able to train and work on their military elitism was due to the harsh ways that they treated the helots. The Spartiates terrified the helots and they treated them in a severe manner which is why the helots obeyed to every word they said and farmed the lands for them. Another reason why the Spartiates treated the helots the way they did was on account of their large numbers, the Spartiates were outnumbered. They feared of a helot rebellion which is why they kept them in line and brutally beat them.

With reference to source 9 you can see that it illustrates how the helots were treated and what they had to do, “Like donkeys suffering… By painful force compelled to bring their masters half of all the produce… ”. The helots were to constantly supply Sparta with agricultural goods and on top of that they were to also help serve Sparta in any battles. Large amounts of them would be chosen, according to Thucydides “As many as two thousand were selected accordingly… rejoicing in their new freedom. The Spartans, however, soon afterwards did away with them and no one ever new how each of them perished”.

They fought for Sparta and the ones who made it out with a thumping heart were sent to die because of their gain of knowledge of military elitism. The helots provided all the crops for Sparta and helped them fight and ironically, them being the lowest form of human life were the ones that helped maintain and keep the Spartan social structure together, they were the basis of the Spartan economy. The perioeci were another group which helped keep the Spartan social structure intact, their role played in the social structure was to help keep the economy stable.

The perioeci were the ones that ‘dwelled around’ Sparta’s outskirts. They dwelled around the city of Sparta so as to protect it from any invaders, control any roadways/waterways and to keep the helots inside of the city. The perioeci were free but they did not have the rights of Spartan citizens. They lived in their own, largely self-governing, communities but they had to obey Spartan laws and fight for Sparta when required. The perioeci were the craftsmen, merchants and small traders and had to supply Sparta with all their commodities and any other non-agricultural goods.

They had to provide these goods to Sparta to help the Spartan army become more elite since all they did was train. The perioeci were also thought out to be the ones that provided all the weapons and armour for Sparta, and why they provided them was to help the Spartiates fight in battles. The perioeci supported the Spartans and fought in battles with them so as to increase the number of men out in the battlefield. Within Laconia there were, at various times, groups who were neither perioeci nor helots but still were not Spartan citizens.

The inferiors contained subgroups within the whole group, the partheniai, mothakes, neodamodeis and the hypomeiones. The inferiors contained the illegitimate children of a Spartiate father and a helot mother, freed helots, playmates and the cowards, ‘tresantes’. All Spartan citizens were to contribute food from their estates to the communal mess; those who could not afford to would eventually lose their citizenship and become an inferior. The reason for contributing food to the communal mess was to show commitment and dedication.

Spartans had to rely on each other and knowing who the best fit is is crucial. The top of the Spartan social structure would be the Spartiates whom were basically the leaders of everyone and controlled most of the social system. The Spartiates were both male and female and were the ruling elite of Sparta; they referred to the selves as homoioi. Spartiates dressed alike and ate the same food in communal messes; this was to illustrate that they were equals and that there was neither wealth nor poverty in the city of Sparta and because of that Sparta appears to be a strong and independent city.

The men of Sparta all trained to be a military elite, a warrior, and the women were to bear strong Spartan children whom would one day become warriors themselves. The mothers have to indoctrinate the children in order for them to conform and become one of Sparta’s soldiers. All the groupings in Sparta link to one another and have some beneficial contribution to the social structure. All the groups, helots, perioeci, inferiors and Spartiates all play an important roll and help maintain the structure of Sparta. The roll of one group helps benefit the roll of the other which is why Sparta managed to stay whole for a very long time.


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