Sparta Society to the Battle of Leuctra, 371 BC

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Daily life and leisure activities

See text: pp.112-119

Using Source A and other sources, what does the evidence reveal about Spartan leisure activities?
Source A: Stele of Damonon (p.115)

Plutarch (Life of Lycurgus): Lycurgus gave the Spartans plenty of leisure time, as the perioiki and helots did the farming, craft and trading. Spartans could not be idle, their free time was spent productively:

“Abundant leisure was unquestionably among the wonderful benefits which Lycurgus had conferred upon his fellow citizens. While he totally banned their involvement in any manual craft, there was equally no need for them to amass wealth… since riches were emphatically neither envied nor esteemed… Except when they went on campaign, all their time was taken up by choral dances, festivals, feasts, hunting expeditions, physical exercise and conversation.”

  • Pausanias refers to ‘dromos’ and shrine to the Dioscuri as “starters of races”.
  • Xenophon mentions a Spartan killed by a discus while on campaign.
  • Pausanias: statue of Hetoimokles. Eleven wrestling victories by him and his father, Hipposthenes, whose career spanned 25 years and five consecutive Olympic games.
  • Stele of Damonon in Sanctuary of Athena Chalkioikos, 5th C BC, lists his running victories and those of his son, Enymakratidas.
  • Pausanias: “daughters of Dionysos” and “daughters of Leukippos”
  • Pausanias: girls ran with hair down, chiton above knees, pinned on left should with right shoulder and breast exposed (see below).

“Every fourth year there is woven for Hera a robe by the Sixteen women, and the same also hold games called Heraea. The games consist of foot-races for maidens. These are not all of the same age. The first to run are the youngest; after them come the next in age, and the last to run are the oldest of the maidens. They run in the following way: their hair hangs down, a tunic reaches to a little above the knee, and they bare the right shoulder as far as the breast. These too have the Olympic stadium reserved for their games, but the course of the stadium is shortened for them by about one-sixth of its length. To the winning maidens they give crowns of olive and a portion of the cow sacrificed to Hera. They may also dedicate statues with their names inscribed upon them. Those who administer to the Sixteen are, like the presidents of the games, married women.” (Pausanias 5.16.2-4)

  • 6th C. Laconian kylix showing a hunting scene
  • Xenophon (Kynegetikos 12.1): hunting developed the body, eyes and ears and accustomed a man to hardship.

Equestrian sport
  • Pausanias: a shrine dedicated to “horse-breeding Poseidon”.
  • Pottery shows horses and horseriders.
  • Votive figurines of horses.
  • Alcman compares girls in a chorus to a herd of horses.
  • Aristophanes (Lysistrata): Spartan dancing girls are “like fillies along the Eurotas’ banks kicking up the dust / swaying their shanks and tossing their hair.”
  • Stele of Damonon lists victories of Damonon and his son, Enymakratidas, in chariot and horse races. Has a carved relief of horses. Damonon bred his own horses. Stephen Hodkinson: the stele shows that there was a regular horse racing circuit throughout the Peloponnese.
  • Herodotus: in 6th C Evagoras the Laconian won three consecutive victories in the four-horse chariot race at the Olympic games. King Demaratos was also victorious in 504 BC. There were eight Spartan victories in the 5th C and four in the 4th C.
  • Pausanias: Kyniska, the daughter of King Archidamos, won the Olympic chariot race and inspired other women (she was the breeder and trainer of the team, not charioteer). A monument honouring her achievement was raised in Sparta.

Cockfighting and boarfighting
  • Plutarch, Life of Lycurgus: “When someone promised to give a young man cockerels that would die in combat, the latter retorted: ‘Don’t give me those, but let me have the ones that kill in combat.’”
  • Attic vase compares fighting cocks to fighting hoplites.
  • Plutarch, Life of Agesilaus: cocks were sacrificed to Ares after a victory.
  • Pausanias: at the Plane-trees, before a fight between two teams of adolescents, each team fought a young boar.

  • Laconian kylikes (35) depict banqueting: symposion or komos.
  • Bronze figurine, 6th C., depicts a reclining banqueter.