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Spartiātae

σπαρτιάται). In Sparta the ruling class of those who had the full rights of citizens, as distinguished from the subject Perioeci (see Perioeci) and Helots (see Helotae). They were the descendants of the Dorians, who had formerly conquered the land under the leadership of Aristodemus. As to the manner in which they were divided, see Phylé. Their number is said never to have exceeded 10,000, and, as they were utterly opposed to the admission of foreign elements, it was constantly decreasing. At the time of the Persian Wars it still amounted to 8000, about B.C. 320 to little more than 1000.

They were called ὅμοιοι (men sharing equal rights), with reference to the equality established among them by the legislation of Lycurgus, (a) in their education, which was exclusively directed towards fitting them for service in war; (b) in their way of living, especially in the meals which they had in common (see Syssitia); (c) in their property; (d) and in their political rights.

To every family of Spartiatae an equal portion of land was assigned by Lycurgus, with a number of Helots who had settled upon it, who had to cultivate the property and deliver the produce to its possessor. The Spartiatae themselves were not allowed to engage in a handicraft, or in trade, or in agriculture; their whole life had to be devoted to the service of the State, and therefore they had their abode in Sparta itself. The allotted land and the Helots were accounted State property, and the possessors had no kind of right to dispose of them. Families which were dying out were preserved by adopting sons of families related to them, and similarly heiresses were married to men without inheritance of their own. If a family consisted of several male members, then the eldest was considered as head of the family, and had to support his brothers. The original equality of property came to an end, partly through the extinction of many families and the transference of their lot of ground, partly by the silent abrogation of the old law, which did not allow the Spartiatae to possess silver or gold, but chiefly after the law of Epitadeus, by which the free disposal of land was allowed, if not by sale, at least by gift during lifetime and by will. But the principle of aristocratic equality long continued in form; and only those who did not fulfil the conditions attached to the equality of rights, or who did not obey the injunctions of Lycurgus as to the education of the young, and as to the life of adult citizens, or who did not contribute to the common meals, suffered a diminution of their political rights. This involved exclusion from the government and administration of the State, as well as from the right of electing or being elected to office; but the punishment affected the individual only, and not his children, nor his position in personal law. See Sparta.

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