And here I may say that the Lacedaemonian state began to suffer distemper and corruption soon after its subversion of the Athenian supremacy filled it with gold and silver. However, since the number of families instituted by Lycurgus1
was still preserved in the transmission of estates, and father left to son his inheritance, to some extent the continuance of this order and equality sustained the state in spite of its errors in other respects.
But when a certain powerful man came to be ephor who was headstrong and of a violent temper, Epitadeus by name, he had a quarrel with his son, and introduced a law permitting a man during his lifetime to give his estate and allotment to any one he wished, or in his will and testament so to leave it.
This man, then, satisfied a private grudge of his own in introducing the law; but his fellow citizens welcomed the law out of greed, made it valid, and so destroyed the most excellent of institutions. For the men of power and influence at once began to acquire estates without scruple, ejecting the rightful heirs from their inheritances; and speedily the wealth of the state streamed into the hands of a few men, and poverty became the general rule, bringing in its train lack of leisure for noble pursuits and occupations unworthy of freemen, along with envy and hatred towards the men of property.
Thus there were left of the old Spartan families not more than seven hundred, and of these there were perhaps a hundred who possessed land and allotment; while the ordinary throng, without resources and without civic rights, lived in enforced idleness, showing no zeal or energy in warding off foreign wars, but ever watching for some opportunity to subvert and change affairs at home.