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[1270b] [1] For the lawgiver desiring to make the Spartiates as numerous as possible holds out inducements to the citizens to have as many children as possible: for they have a law releasing the man who has been father of three sons from military service, and exempting the father of four from all taxes. Yet it is clear that if a number of sons are born and the land is correspondingly divided there will inevitably come to be many poor men.

Moreover the regulations for the Ephorate1 are also bad. For this office has absolute control over their most important affairs, but the Ephors are appointed from the entire people, so that quite poor men often happen to get into the office, who owing to their poverty used to be2 easily bought. This was often manifested in earlier times, and also lately in the affair3 at Andros; for certain Ephors were corrupted with money and so far as lay in their power ruined the whole state. And because the office was too powerful, and equal to a tyranny, the kings also were compelled to cultivate popular favor, so that in this way too the constitution was jointly injured, for out of an aristocracy came to be evolved a democracy. Thus this office does, it is true, hold together the constitution—for the common people keep quiet because they have a share in the highest office of state, so that whether this is due to the lawgiver or [20] has come about by chance, the Ephorate is advantageous for the conduct of affairs; for if a constitution is to be preserved, all the sections of the state must wish it to exist and to continue on the same lines; so the kings are in this frame of mind owing to their own honorable rank, the nobility owing to the office of the Elders, which is a prize of virtue, and the common people because of the Ephorate, which is appointed from the whole population—but yet the Ephorate, though rightly open to all the citizens, ought not to be elected as it is now, for the method is too childish.4 And further the Ephors have jurisdiction in lawsuits of high importance, although they are any chance people, so that it would be better if they did not decide cases on their own judgement but by written rules and according to the laws. Also the mode of life of the Ephors is not in conformity with the aim of the state, for it is itself too luxurious, whereas in the case of the other citizens the prescribed life goes too far in the direction of harshness, so that they are unable to endure it, and secretly desert the law and enjoy the pleasures of the body. Also their regulations for the office of the Elders are not good; it is true that if these were persons of a high class who had been adequately trained in manly valor, one might perhaps say that the institution was advantageous to the state, although their life-tenure of the judgeship in important trials is indeed a questionable feature (for there is old age of mind as well as of body);

1 The five Ephors, elected for a year by the people, were the real rulers of Sparta. The two kings were hereditary; the senate of twenty-eight nobles advised them, and the Ephors presided at the Assembly of citizens over thirty years old, who voted on the measures of the Kings and Ephors but could not discuss them. The small fleet was commanded by a single admiral appointed for a year by the Ephors and not allowed to hold office twice.

2 Perhaps the Greek should be altered to give ‘are.’

3 Unknown

4 There is no clear evidence what the method was.

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hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (3):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), EMPHRU´RI
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), GEROU´SIA
    • Smith's Bio, Lycurgus
  • Cross-references in notes to this page (1):
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