The Defect in the Spartan Constitution
For in the first place is it not notorious that they
First and second Messenian wars, B. C. 745-724(?), 685-668.
were nearly the first Greeks to cast a covetous eye upon the territory of their neighbours, and that accordingly they waged a
war of subjugation on the Messenians?
In the next place is it not related in all histories that in
their dogged obstinacy they bound themselves with an oath
never to desist from the siege of Messene
had taken it? And lastly it is known to all that in their
efforts for supremacy in Greece
they submitted to do
the bidding of those whom they had once conquered in
For when the Persians invaded Greece
they conquered them, as champions of the
liberty of the Greeks; yet when the invaders
had retired and fled, they betrayed the cities of Greece
their hands by the peace of Antalcidas, for the
sake of getting money to secure their supremacy
over the Greeks.
Peace of Antalcidas, B. C. 387.
It was then that the defect
in their constitution was rendered apparent.
The causes of this failure.
For as long as
their ambition was confined to governing their
immediate neighbours, or even the Peloponnesians only, they were content with the
resources and supplies provided by Laconia
itself, having all
material of war ready to hand, and being able without much
expenditure of time to return home or convey provisions with
them. But directly they took in hand to despatch naval
expeditions, or to go on campaigns by land outside the Peloponnese
, it was evident that neither their iron currency, nor
their use of crops for payment in kind, would be able to
supply them with what they lacked if they abided by the
legislation of Lycurgus; for such undertakings required money
universally current, and goods from foreign countries. Thus
they were compelled to wait humbly at Persian doors, impose
tribute on the islanders, and exact contributions from all the
Greeks: knowing that, if they abided by the laws of Lycurgus,
it was impossible to advance any claims upon any outside power
at all, much less upon the supremacy in Greece