Sparta and Lakonia: A Regional History 1300-362 BC
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In this fully revised and updated edition of his groundbreaking study, Paul Cartledge uncovers the realities behind the potent myth of Sparta.
The book explores both the city-state of Sparta and the territory of Lakonia which it unified and exploited. Combining the more traditional written sources with archaeological and environmental perspectives, its coverage extends from the apogee of Mycenaean culture, to Sparta's crucial defeat at the battle of Mantinea in 362 BC.
which embraces Attiki, Corinthia, Argolis and the Kyklades. This does not of course mean that there are no divergences within the sub-group: in temperature, for example, Sparta is more continental, Athens more maritime. Indeed, there are divergencies, though insignificant ones, within Lakonia itself. However, the sub-group as a whole is characterized by slight rainfall and marked, prolonged summer drought, thereby possessing to the fullest degree the differentiating qualities of the
as we have seen). They also took the extraordinary step of raising a small force of cavalry and archers, a sign of the exceptional nature of the situation as it was apprehended at Sparta. For, as Thucydides is careful to remark – and to underline by employing his favourite comparison between the Spartan and Athenian national characters – the Spartans were now more timid and hesitant than ever. They had suffered a great and unexpected disaster on Sphakteria; Pylos and Kythera were in enemy hands;
Sparta for its part was no stranger to dealings with Persia. To look no further back than 432, Archidamos, who laid such stress on Sparta’s lack of cash, had envisaged receiving aid from this source (1.82.1), and in 431 and 430 Spartan embassies had been despatched to the Great King (2.7.1, with Diod. 12.41.1; 2.67.1, with Hdt. 7.137). In 428, however, the Spartan navarch Alkidas had shown himself remarkably timid and dilatory, even for a Spartan, and failed to capitalize on Mytilene’s revolt
bounded on the north by the Nedha valley, a ‘natural no-man’s land’ (Chadwick 1976a, 39). Such was the area available to the Spartans from c.545, some ‘two-fifths of the Peloponnese’ according to an ancient estimate (Thuc. 1.10.2) or about 8,500 km2. No other polis (city-state) could compete; Athens, for example, Sparta’s nearest rival, commanded only about 2,500. Mere size, however, does not by itself account for the power and influence wielded by Sparta for so long a period. The question which
stood somewhere between Helots and free allies of Sparta. According to Oliva (1971, 62), they occupied a station between Spartan citizens and foreigners or allies. The latter, I suggest, is the more fruitful perspective. For on the one hand the Perioikic communities were regarded as poleis, not only by inexact writers like Herodotus (7. 234), Xenophon (Hell. 6.5.21; Lak. Pol. 15.3; Ages. 2.24) and Stephanos of Byzantion, but even by Thucydides (5.54.1). The same idea that they were in some sense