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In Sparta, citizenship brought power and privilege, but required devotion and personal sacrifice

Uploaded by AngelClaire on Sep 24, 2005

The Laconians had a particularly strict and defined notion of citizenship. Only adult males who could prove their descent from original Doran conquerors, who had completed their training at the agoge, (the Spartan state education system which turned boys into warriors) and who had been accepted to the public messes were considered to be part of the homoioi; Spartiates or ‘equals’.
With such a rigid structure in defining the men of the citizen class, at her peak Sparta’s military – which was comprised of her citizen body, and during times of war, pereoikoi (inhabitants of outer villages of Laconia) and helots (conquered peoples who were reduced to slavery) – would have numbered no more than ten thousand.
Upon election to one of the public messes, the Spartan citizen was obliged to make a monthly contribution of grain, fruit and wine to his syssition (mess), and was, for the next thirty years, liable to be called for military service. He also had to dine at the messes every night, and only sickness, hunting expeditions or public sacrifices excused him from attending.
Despite the expectation of total devotion to the state, Spartiates were entitled to a number of privileges strictly denied to non-Spartans. Once elected to a mess, a man was given an allotment of public land and serfs. He could participate in the Assembly, and, if married, finally able to live with his wife.
The level of commitment required of a citizen to his state in Sparta was unheard of anywhere else in Greece. However, the education and training all citizens would have had to undergo was designed to instil a sense of courage, confidence and unwavering devotion to the polis, and this is why the citizens had no hesitation in making personal sacrifices if it was for the good of the state.

The first active step in becoming a Spartan citizen was at the age of seven, when boys of the citizen class (and in rare cases, pereoikoi, Laconian outsiders and local royalty) were given up by their parents and put in the state education system; the agoge. The women had no trouble in letting go of their young sons because, although they were fully aware of the extreme discipline that pervaded all aspects of their sons’ training, it was considered to be for the good of the state that fit, healthy males be given the right to develop into defenders of the...

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Uploaded by:   AngelClaire

Date:   09/24/2005

Category:   Ancient Greece

Length:   5 pages (1,230 words)

Views:   2910

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