Sparta Society to the Battle of Leuctra, 371 BC

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Significant sites: Sparta (Σπάρτα)

See text: p.5 The site of Sparta

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  • Describe the physical layout of the site of Sparta.
  • Describe the main features of the site.

  • What was Thucydides' opinion of the site of Sparta?
“Suppose, for example, that the city of Sparta were to become deserted and that only the temples and foundations of buildings remained, i think that future generations would, as time passed, find it very difficult to believe that the place had really been as powerful as it was represented to be... Since, however, the city is not regularly planned and contains no temples or monuments of great magnificence, but is simply a collection of villages, in the ancient Hellenic way, its appearance would not come up to expectation. If, on the other hand, the same thing were to happen to Athens, one would conjecture from what met the eye that the city had been twice as powerful as in fact it is.”
Thucydides 1.10

Describe the physical layout of the site of Sparta.
  • Next to Eurotas R.
  • Dorians lived in scattered settlements
  • Four villages: Limnai, Pitana, Kynosoura, Mesoa. Joined together in 9th C. BC. Joined with Amyklai (5 km away) c.750 BC.
  • Polis included the city and surrounding countryside.
  • A spread out city, with no city walls.
  • A number of small hills. One became the acropolis. It was not fortified.
  • Sparta was protected by surrounding mountains.

Describe the main features of the site.
  • Temples and shrines built in and near the town: Temple of Athena Chalkioikos on the acropolis (see p.129); Shrine of Apollo at Amyklai (see p.134); Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia (see p.136)
  • Agora (market place).
  • Much of the ancient site is under the modern town.
  • The few remaining monuments date from Roman times. They have been changed over time.
  • Thucydides: an insignificant site (see above)
  • Pausanias described many fine temples and monuments.