Sparta Society to the Battle of Leuctra, 371 BC

- Syllabus Content - Map - Past Questions -

The geographical setting, natural features and resources of ancient Sparta

See text: p.3 The geographical setting of Sparta: river valley and mountain barriers; p.5 Resources

Past HSC question - 2008:
(a) Name TWO natural resources of Sparta. (2 marks)

Examiners' comment:
(a) Many candidates named two natural resources of Sparta. However, some students were unsure what a natural resource was and wanted to include processed articles such as pottery and olive oil. Others mentioned items of a general nature such as crops and mountains.

  • Where is Sparta situated?
  • Describe the main geographical features of the area.
  • What resources were available in this area?

Where is Sparta situated?
  • Situated in Laconia (Lacedaemon) in the Peloponnese
  • On the Eurotas R.
  • Small fertile plain – 14km long
  • Port 46 km away at Gytheon

Describe the main geographical features of the area.
  • Surrounded by mountains – natural barrier for defence. No city wall until 2nd C. BC. Mt. Taygetus to the west (2,407m), Mt. Parnon to the east (1839m), Arcadian mountains to the north.
  • Mountains provided plentiful water after melting of winter snows on surrounding mountains.
  • Rich alluvial flood plain, very fertile.
  • Harsh winters, long hot summers

What resources were available in this area?
  • Limestone and marble from mountains.
  • Wood from forests.
  • Crops: barley most common grain.
  • Olives, orchards, grapes – five wine growing districts.
  • Sheep and goats – cheese from goat’s milk. Wool from sheep.
  • Bees – honey.
  • Pigs for meat.
  • Leather from hides.
  • Hunted wild animals, eg boars.
  • Bred horses.
  • Fish and seafood from port at Gytheon
  • Murex mollusc – purple-red murex dye – to colour their soldiers’ cloaks.