Sparta Society to the Battle of Leuctra, 371 BC

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Economic roles of the periokoi ('dwellers around') and helots

See text: p.52 The perioikoi; p.53 The Helots

The Periokoi
  • By the 5th century BC, periokoi were presumably the only ones involved in craftwork, trade and commerce. These occupations were forbidden to Spartans by the Laws of Lykourgos.
  • We should be wary of accepting any assertion that craft objects that date from the 7th or 6th century BC were made by periokoi. There is no possible way to determine who made these objects.

NOTE: In other words, the function that the periokoi had inside the economy was that it is presumed they are the ones who ran trade and made objects of value to be traded. However, with limited sources, there is no way to determine the accuracy of this statement.

The Helots
  • Sparta was based on state-run serfdom.
    • The helots were owned by the Spartan state and were assigned to individual Spartans to work agricultural land.
    • Due to the exploitation of the helots as a labour force, the Spartiates only had the resources needed to support their lifestyle and the free time to spend on athletics and military training.
    • From the lands that they farmed, the helots had a share in the produce.

Note:** In other words, the main role that the helots played in the economy was that they were responsible for the farming. This meant that the Spartans not only had time to work on their military training, etc., but that they also had the food required to survive. Once again, with the limited sources on the Spartan economy, it is impossible to determine the extent of the role that the helots played within the economy.