Sparta Society to the Battle of Leuctra, 371 BC

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Gods and goddesses: Artemis Orthia, Poseidon, Apollo

Past HSC question - 2006:
(a) Name TWO gods/goddesses worshipped at Sparta. (2 marks)

Examiners' comment:
(a) The majority of candidates were able to name two gods/goddesses worshipped at Sparta.

Text, page 127

Artemis Orthia

  • Goddess of fertility and childbirth; huntress; sister of Apollo.
  • The Spartans combined her with Orthia, an earlier Spartan goddess.

See also: 5.2 Architecture: Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia


  • Sun god; order and harmony; brother of Artemis
  • Associated particularly with Amyklai and the Hyakinthia festival.
  • Also worshipped at Delphi where his oracle was consulted by all Greeks: gave approval, through the Great Rhetra, of the Spartan constitution.

See also: 4.3 Festivals: Hyakinthia; and 5.2 Architecture: Amyklaion


  • God of the sea.
  • Pausanias: no sanctuary at Gutheion mentioned, but a sanctuary to ‘horse-breeding Poseidon’ in Laconia, and sanctuary near the racecourse.
  • Poseidon is also called ‘house-god’ and ‘Family Poseidon’.
  • Near Therapne: ‘Poseidon the earth-holder’.
  • Also the ‘earth-shaker’ (earthquakes). Thucydides 1.128: the earthquake of 465 BC was punishment by Poseidon for the killing of helots who had sought sanctuary at his alter.
  • Xenophon: King Agis interpreted an earth tremor in 388/7 BC as encouragement from Poseidon to advance.
  • Xenophon: Spartan soldiers on campaign sang a paean to Poseidon.